Chalabi Denies Telling Iran U.S. Had Code
Thursday June 3, 2004 12:01 AM
By KATHERINE PFLEGER SHRADER
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) - Iraqi exile Ahmad Chalabi and his supporters denied Wednesday that he gave Iranian officials classified information indicating the United States had cracked Iran's secret communications codes. Members of Congress sought more details about Chalabi's alleged actions.
Chalabi, a longtime favorite of some in the Pentagon, is at the center of a controversy over whether he leaked the closely guarded information about methods used by the United States to spy on Iran.
Government officials said the FBI was investigating who in the U.S. government provided Chalabi the information, a potential criminal offense that could have damaged American efforts to monitor Tehran's activities.
Among the individuals the FBI is looking at are Pentagon officials assigned in the last year to be liaisons between Chalabi and the U.S. government, a law enforcement official said Wednesday. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the information was sensitive and part of an investigation.
In Najaf, Iraq, Chalabi told The Associated Press that the reports he leaked the highly classified information are ``false'' and ``stupid.''
``Where would I get this from?'' Chalabi asked. ``I have no such information. How would I know anything about that? That's stupid from every aspect.''
Chalabi's defenders have used the unattributed nature of the allegation of a leak to Iran to suggest they are part of a baseless smear campaign.
Richard Perle, a former Pentagon adviser now with the conservative American Enterprise Institute think tank, said he finds it inconceivable that Iran's top intelligence official in Baghdad would have used a compromised channel to tell Tehran that the United States was reading its communications, as has been reported. U.S. intelligence reportedly intercepted that message, which indicated Chalabi had provided the information.
``The idea that the Iranians, having been informed that their codes were broken, would then use their broken codes back to Iran is absurd,'' Perle said. ``It is so basic of a mistake .... It is comparable to a math teacher instructing a student that two and two is five.''
Congressional aides said members of the Senate Intelligence Committee received a briefing Wednesday on Chalabi. The aides also spoke on the condition of anonymity because the session was classified.
House Intelligence Chairman Porter Goss, R-Fla., said he has never had a great deal of confidence in Chalabi. He wouldn't comment directly on whether his committee, too, was inquiring into Chalabi's actions. However, he said, ``I would say that the oversight has worked well in matters relating to Mr. Chalabi.''
The CIA and some in the State Department have been suspicious of Chalabi's information and allegiances for some time. He provided intelligence sources to the Bush administration about weapons of mass destruction, used to justify the U.S. war against Iraq, but his information came under major criticism after no weapons were found.
Chalabi, a member of the handpicked Iraqi Governing Council, has also been accused of meddling in an investigation into Iraq's oil-for-food program during the regime of former President Saddam Hussein.
Allegations that Chalabi passed undisclosed but highly sensitive information to Iran have lingered for weeks, and some news organizations were asked by U.S. officials not to report the details of the alleged leak because it would endanger an investigation.
A spokesman for Chalabi, Entifadh Qanbar, said Chalabi's group, the Iraqi National Congress, welcomed any congressional investigations because it had nothing to hide.
Associated Press writers Mariam Fam in Najaf, Iraq, and John Solomon in Washington contributed to this report.
Iran scoffs at Chalabi spy claims
Chalabi strongly denies passing US secrets to Iran
Iran has denied reports in the US that Iraqi politician Ahmed Chalabi warned Tehran that Washington had broken its secret communications codes.
"The whole story is completely false," said Supreme National Security Council secretary Hassan Rowhani.
The FBI has reportedly begun an inquiry to see who passed information to Mr Chalabi and if it damaged US security.
Officials said the alleged leak helped cause a parting of ways between the US and its former favourite Iraqi leader.
According to US officials, Mr Chalabi told Iran's chief spy in Baghdad in April that the US was reading the Iranian intelligence service's communications traffic.
US intelligence is said to have discovered the alleged betrayal when it read a cable which the station chief sent to his superiors in Iran detailing the conversation with Mr Chalabi.
Mr Rowhani acknowledged Iran had been in touch with Mr Chalabi when he had been an exiled opposition leader, but denied at any time having an intelligence relationship.
"Chalabi was mostly in America. Sometimes, we met him at conferences, for example in London or northern Iraq. Iran had no special intelligence contacts or activities with Chalabi and we don't have now," Mr Rowhani said.
He also scoffed at the report that the US had intercepted a cable to Tehran.
"Between Iran and Iraq is an open border. To get a document is easy and there is no need to message it on the telex so that the United States may intercept it. The story is wrong from its foundation," Mr Rowhani said.
Much has changed since last year, when Mr Chalabi was one of the first Iraqi exiles to be flown back into Iraq following the US-led invasion.
He became increasingly distanced from Washington after criticising the US-led coalition and that allegations that he was linked to Iranian hardliners.
The US has since questioned the quality of intelligence provided by his party, the Iraqi National Congress, in the run-up to the invasion.
The Pentagon had been paying Mr Chalabi's party $335,000 a month as part of an intelligence-gathering programme, but cut off funding last month.
A few days later, American and Iraqi forces raided his home and offices, seizing documents and computers.
The New York Times says it knew of the allegation against Mr Chalabi for some time, but was asked by the Bush administration to withhold publication in order to avoid compromising a vital intelligence operation.
That request was withdrawn on Tuesday, says the paper. Mr Chalabi has strenuously denied passing any classified information to Iran.
An official at his Iraqi National Congress party said the report was "fabricated" and part of "a campaign to marginalise our role because we have been demanding full sovereignty from the US-led coalition".
Remarks by President Bush at the United States Air Force Academy Graduation Ceremony
WASHINGTON, June 2 /PRNewswire/ --
The following is a transcript of remarks by President Bush at the United States Air Force Academy Graduation
United States Air Force Academy
11:17 A.M. MDT
THE PRESIDENT: Secretary Roche and General Jumper, General Rosa, Attorney General Ashcroft, Congresswoman Heather Wilson -- Air Force Academy graduate 1982 -- Academy staff and faculty, distinguished guests, officers, cadets, members of the graduating class, and your families: Thank you for the warm welcome. (Applause.)
And thank you for the honor to visit the United States
Air Force Academy on your 50th anniversary. (Applause.)
You've worked hard to get to this moment. You survived "Beast," spent seven months eating your meals at attention, carried boulders from Cathedral rock, and endured countless hours in "Jack's Valley." In four years, you've been transformed from "basics" and "smacks" -- (laughter) -- to proud officers and airmen, worthy of the degree and the commission you receive.
Congratulations on a great achievement. (Applause.)
Your superintendent has made a positive difference in a short time. I thank him for helping to restore the Academy's tradition of honor, which applies to every man and woman, without exception. (Applause.) I thank the
superb faculty for your high standards and dedication to preparing Air Force officers. And I thank the parents here today for standing behind your sons and daughters as they step forward to serve America. (Applause.)
This is a week of remembrance for our country. On Saturday we dedicated the World War II Memorial in Washington, in the company of veterans who fought
and flew at places like Midway, and Iwo Jima and Normandy. This weekend I will go to France for the ceremonies marking the 60th anniversary of D-Day, at a place where the fate of millions turned on the courage of thousands. In these events we recall a time of peril, and national unity, and individual courage. We honor a generation of Americans who served this country and saved the liberty of the world. (Applause.)
On this day in 1944, General Eisenhower sat down at his headquarters in the English countryside, and wrote out a message to the troops who would soon invade Normandy. "Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force," he wrote, "the eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you."
Each of you receiving a commission today in the United States military will also carry the hopes of free people everywhere. (Applause.) As your generation assumes its own duties during a global conflict that will define
your careers, you will be called upon to take brave action and serve with honor. In some ways, this struggle we're in is unique. In other ways, it resembles the great clashes of the last century -- between those who put their trust in tyrants and those who put their trust in liberty. Our goal, the goal of this generation, is the same: We will secure our nation and defend the peace through the forward march of freedom.
Like the Second World War, our present conflict began with a ruthless, surprise attack on the United States. We will not forget that treachery, and we will accept nothing less than victory over the enemy.
Like the murderous ideologies of the 20th century, the ideology of terrorism reaches across boarders, and seeks recruits in every country. So we're fighting these enemies wherever they hide across the earth.
Like other totalitarian movements, the terrorists seek to impose a grim vision in which dissent is crushed, and every man and woman must think and live in colorless conformity. So to the oppressed peoples everywhere, we are
offering the great alternative of human liberty.
Like enemies of the past, the terrorists underestimate the strength of free peoples. The terrorists believe that free societies are essentially corrupt and decadent, and with a few hard blows will collapse in weakness and
in panic. The enemy has learned that America is strong and determined, because of the steady resolve of our citizens, and because of the skill and strength of the Army, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard and the United States Air Force. (Applause.)
And like the aggressive ideologies that rose up in the early 1900s, our enemies have clearly and proudly stated their intentions: Here are the words of al Qaeda's self-described military spokesman in Europe, on a tape claiming
responsibility for the Madrid bombings. He said, "We choose death, while you choose life. If you do not stop your injustices, more and more blood will flow and these attacks will seem very small compared to what can occur in what you call terrorism."
Here are the words of another al Qaeda spokesman, Suleiman Abu Gheith.
Last year, in an article published on an al Qaeda website, he said, "We have the right to kill four million Americans -- two million of them children -- and to exile twice as many and wound and cripple hundreds of thousands.
Furthermore, it is our right to fight them with chemical and biological weapons."
In all these threats, we hear the echoes of other enemies in other times -- that same swagger and demented logic of the fanatic. Like their kind in the past, these murderers have left scars and suffering. And like their kind in the past, they will flame and fail and suffer defeat by free men and women. (Applause.)
The enemies of freedom are opposed by a great and growing alliance. Nations that won the Cold War, nations once behind an Iron Curtain, and nations on every continent see this threat clearly. We're cooperating at every level of our military, law enforcement and intelligence to meet the danger. The war on terror is civilization's fight. And, as in the struggles of the last century, civilized nations are waging this fight together.
The terrorists of our day are, in some ways, unlike the enemies of the past. The terrorist ideology has not yet taken control of a great power like Germany or the Soviet Union. And so the terrorists have adopted a strategy
different from the gathering of vast and standing armies. They seek, instead, to demoralize free nations with dramatic acts of murder. They seek to wear down our resolve and will by killing the innocent and spreading fear and anarchy. And they seek weapons of mass destruction, so they can threaten or attack even the most powerful nations.
Fighting this kind of enemy is a complex mission that will require all your skill and resourcefulness. Our enemies have no capital or nation-state to defend. They share a vision and operate as a network of dozens of violent
extremist groups around the world, striking separately and in concert. Al Qaeda is the vanguard of these loosely affiliated groups, and we estimate that over the years many thousands of recruits have passed through its training
camps. Al Qaeda has been wounded by losing nearly two-thirds of its known leadership, and most of its important sanctuaries. Yet many of the terrorists it trained are still active in hidden cells or in other groups. Home-grown
extremists, incited by al Qaeda's example, are at work in many nations.
And since September the 11th, we've seen terrorist violence in an arc from Morocco to Spain to Turkey to Russia to Uzbekistan to Pakistan to India to Thailand to Indonesia. Yet the center of the conflict, the platform for their global expansion, the region they seek to remake in their image, is the broader Middle East.
Just as events in Europe determined the outcome of the Cold War, events in the Middle East will set the course of our current struggle. If that region is abandoned to dictators and terrorists, it will be a constant source of
violence andd alarm, exporting killers of increasing destructive power to attack America and other free nations. If that region grows in democracy and prosperity and hope, the terrorist movement will lose its sponsors, lose its recruits, and lose the festering grievances that keep terrorists in business.
The stakes of this struggle are high. The security and peace of our country are at stake, and success in this struggle is our only option. (Applause.)
This is the great challenge of our time, the storm in which we fly. History is once again witnessing a great clash. This is not a clash of civilizations. The civilization of Islam, with its humane traditions of
learning and tolerance, has no place for this violent sect of killers and aspiring tyrants. This is not a clash of religions. The faith of Islam teaches moral responsibility that enobles men and women, and forbids the shedding of innocent blood. Instead, this is a clash of political visions.
In the terrorists' vision of the world, the Middle East must fall under the rule of radical governments, moderate Arab states must be overthrown, nonbelievers must be expelled from Muslim lands, and the harshest practice of
extremist rule must be universally enforced. In this vision, books are burned, terrorists are sheltered, women are whipped, and children are schooled in hatred and murder and suicide.
Our vision is completely different. We believe that every person has a right to think and pray and live in obedience to God and conscience, not in frightened submission to despots. (Applause.) We believe that societies find their greatness by encouraging the creative gifts of their people, not in controlling their lives and feeding their resentments. And we have confidence
that people share this vision of dignity and freedom in every culture because liberty is not the invention of Western culture, liberty is the deepest need and hope of all humanity. The vast majority of men and women in Muslim
societies reject the domination of extremists like Osama bin Laden. They're looking to the world's free nations to support them in their struggle against the violent minority who want to impose a future of darkness across the Middle
East. We will not abandon them to the designs of evil men. We will stand with the people of that region as they seek their future in freedom. (Applause.)
We bring more than a vision to this conflict -- we bring a strategy that will lead to victory. And that strategy has four commitments:
First, we are using every available tool to dismantle, disrupt and destroy terrorists and their organizations. With all the skill of our law enforcement, all the stealth of our special forces, and all the global reach of our air power, we will strike the terrorists before they can strike our people. The best way to protect America is to stay on the offensive. (Applause.)
Secondly, we are denying terrorists places of sanctuary or support. The power of terrorists is multiplied when they have safe havens to gather and train recruits. Terrorist havens are found within states that have difficulty controlling areas of their own territory. So we're helping governments like the Philippines and Kenya to enforce anti-terrorist laws, through information
sharing and joint training.
Terrorists also find support and safe haven within outlaw regimes. So I have set a clear doctrine that the sponsors of terror will be held equally accountable for the acts of terrorists. (Applause.) Regimes in Iraq and
Afghanistan learned that providing support and sanctuary to terrorists carries with it enormous costs -- while Libya has discovered that abandoning the pursuit of weapons of mass murder has opened a better path to relations with
the free world.
Terrorists find their ultimate support and sanctuary when they gain control of governments and countries. We saw the terrible harm that terrorists did by taking effective control over the government of Afghanistan
-- a terrorist victory that led directly to the attacks of September the 11th. And terrorists have similar designs on Iraq, on Pakistan, on Saudi Arabia and many other regional governments they regard as illegitimate. We can only
imagine the scale of terrorist crimes were they to gain control of states with weapons of mass murder or vast oil revenues. So we will not retreat. We will prevent the emergence of terrorist-controlled states.
Third, we are using all elements of our national power to deny terrorists the chemical, biological and nuclear weapons they seek. Because this global threat requires a global response, we are working to strengthen international
institutions charged with opposing proliferation. We are working with regional powers and international partners to confront the threats of North Korea and Iran. We have joined with 14 other nations in the Proliferation
Security Initiative to interdict -- on sea, on land, or in the air -- shipments of weapons of mass destruction, components to build those weapons, and the means to deliver them. Our country must never allow mass murderers to
gain hold of weapons of mass destruction. We will lead the world and keep unrelenting pressure on the enemy. (Applause.)
Fourth and finally, we are denying the terrorists the ideological victories they seek by working for freedom and reform in the broader Middle East. Fighting terror is not just a matter of killing or capturing terrorists. To stop the flow of recruits into terrorist movement, young people in the region must see a real and hopeful alternative -- a society that rewards their talent and turns their energies to constructive purpose. And here the vision of freedom has great advantages. Terrorists incite young men and women to strap bombs on their bodies and dedicate their deaths to the death of others. Free societies inspire young men and women to work, and achieve, and dedicate their lives to the life of their country. And in the long run, I have great faith that the appeal of freedom and life is stronger than the lure of hatred and death.
Freedom's advance in the Middle East will have another very practical effect. The terrorist movement feeds on the appearance of inevitability. It claims to rise on the currents of history, using past America withdrawals from
Somalia and Beirut to sustain this myth and to gain new followers. The success of free and stable governments in Afghanistan and Iraq and elsewhere will shatter the myth and discredit the radicals. (Applause.)
And as the entire region sees the promise of freedom in its midst, the terrorist ideology will become more and more irrelevant, until that day when it is viewed with
contempt or ignored altogether. (Applause.)
For decades, free nations tolerated oppression in the Middle East for the sake of stability. In practice, this approach brought little stability, and much oppression. So I have changed this policy. In the short-term, we will
work with every government in the Middle East dedicated to destroying the terrorist networks. In the longer-term, we will expect a higher standard of reform and democracy from our friends in the region. (Applause.)
Democracy and reform will make those nations stronger and more stable, and make the world more secure by undermining terrorism at it source. Democratic institutions in the Middle East will not grow overnight; in America, they grew
over generations. Yet the nations of the Middle East will find, as we have found, the only path to true progress is the path of freedom and justice and democracy. (Applause.)
America is pursuing our forward strategy for freedom in the broader Middle East in many ways. Voices in that region are increasingly demanding reform and democratic change. So we are working with courageous leaders like
President Karzai of Afghanistan, who is ushering in a new era of freedom for the Afghan people. We're taking aside reformers, and we're standing for human rights and political freedom, often at great personal risk. We're encouraging economic opportunity and the rule of law and government reform and the expansion of liberty throughout the region.
And we're working toward the goal of a Palestinian state living side by side with Israel in peace. (Applause.)
Prime Minister Sharon's plan to remove all settlements from Gaza and several from the West Bank is a courageous step toward peace. (Applause.)
His decision provides an historic moment of opportunity to begin building a future Palestinian state. This initiative can stimulate progress toward peace by setting the parties back on the road map, the most reliable guide to ending the occupation that began in 1967. This success will require reform-minded Palestinians to step forward and lead and meet their road map obligations. And the United States of
America stands ready to help those dedicated to peace, those willing to fight violence, find a new state so we can realize peace in the greater Middle East. (Applause.)
Some who call themselves "realists" question whether the spread of democracy in the Middle East should be any concern of ours. But the realists in this case have lost contact with a fundamental reality. America has always
been less secure when freedom is in retreat. America is always more secure when freedom is on the march.
All our commitments in the Middle East -- all of the four commitments of our strategy -- are now being tested in Iraq. We have removed a state-sponsor of terror with a history of using weapons of mass destruction. And the whole
world is better off with Saddam Hussein sitting in a prison cell. (Applause.)
We now face al Qaeda associates like the terrorist Zarqawi, who seek to hijack the future of that nation. We are fighting enemies who want us to retreat, and leave Iraq to tyranny, so they can claim an ideological victory over
America. They would use that victory to gather new trength, and take their to our friends.
Yet our coalition is determined, and the Iraqi people have made clear:
Iraq will remain in the camp of free nations. (Applause.)
The Iraqi people are moving forward, in clear, steady steps, with our support, to achieve democracy. Iraq now has a designated Prime Minister, Ayad Allawi, a respected Iraqi patriot once targeted by Saddam Hussein's assassins.
I spoke with the Prime Minister yesterday. He recognized the sacrifice of brave Americans who have given their lives in Iraq, and he pledged that his country would be a friend and ally of America in peace. (Applause.)
Along with a president and two deputy presidents, Prime Minister Allawi will lead a government of 33 ministers, which take office immediately, and begin preparing for the transfer of full sovereignty by June the 30th. America and Great Britain are now working with the United Nations Security Council and Iraq's new leaders on a resolution that will endorse the sovereign government of Iraq, and urge other nations to actively support it.
The Iraqi people are looking to us for help, and we will provide it. Many fine civilian professionals are now working in that country, helping Iraqis to rebuild their infrastructure and build the institutions of a free country.
Along with the United Nations, we will help Iraq's new government to prepare for national elections by January of 2005. This free election is what the terrorists in the country fear most. Free elections are exactly what they
are going to see.
Our military is performing with skill and courage, and our nation is proud of the United States military. (Applause.)
Many brave Iraqis have stepped forward to fight for their own freedom, and we are working closely with them to disband and destroy the illegal militia, to defeat the terrorists, and to secure the safe arrival of Iraqi democracy. We're stepping up our efforts to train effective Iraqi security forces that will eventually defend the liberty of their own country.
At every stage of this process, before and after the transition to Iraqi sovereignty, the enemy is likely to be active and brutal. They know the stakes as well as we do. But our coalition is prepared, our will is strong, and neither Iraq's new leadership nor the United States will be intimidated by thugs and assassins.
As we fight the war on terror in Iraq and on other fronts, we must keep in mind the nature of the enemy. No act of America explains terrorist violence, and no concession of America could appease it. The terrorists who attacked our country on September the 11th, 2001 were not protesting our policies.
They were protesting our existence. Some say that by fighting the terrorists abroad since September the 11th, we only stir up a hornet's nest. But the terrorists who struck that day were stirred up already. (Applause.)
If America were not fighting terrorists in Iraq, and Afghanistan, and elsewhere, what would these thousands of killers do, suddenly begin leading productive lives of service and charity? (Laughter.)
Would the terrorists who beheaded an American on camera just be quiet, peaceful citizens if America had not
liberated Iraq? We are dealing here with killers who have made the death of Americans the calling of their lives. And America has made a decision about these terrorists: Instead of waiting for them to strike again in our midst,
we will take this fight to the enemy. (Applause.)
We are confident of our cause in Iraq, but the struggle we have entered will not end with success in Iraq. Overcoming terrorism, and bringing greater freedom to the nations of the Middle East, is the work of decades. To
prevail, America will need the swift and able transformed military you will help to build and lead. America will need a generation of Arab linguists, and experts on Middle Eastern history and culture. America will need improved
intelligence capabilities to track threats and expose the plans of unseen enemies.
Above all, America will need perseverance. This conflict will take many turns, with setbacks on the course to victory. Through it all, our confidence comes from one unshakable belief: We believe, in Ronald Reagan's words, that "the future belongs to the free." (Applause.) And we've seen the appeal of liberty with our own eyes. We have seen freedom firmly established in former enemies like Japan and Germany. We have seen freedom arrive, on waves of
unstoppable progress, to nations in Latin America, and Asia, and Africa, and Eastern Europe. Now freedom is stirring in the Middle East, and no one should bet against it. (Applause.)
In the years immediately after World War II ended, our nation faced more adversity and danger with the rise of imperial communism. In 1947, communist forces were pressing a civil war in Greece, and threatening Turkey. More than two years after the Nazi surrender, there was still starvation in Germany, reconstruction seemed to be faltering, and the Marshall Plan had not yet begun. In 1948, Berlin was blockaded on the orders of Josef Stalin. In 1949, the Soviet Union exploded a nuclear weapon, and communists in China won their revolution.
All of this took place in the first four years of the Cold War. If that generation of Americans had lost its nerve, there would have been no "long twilight struggle," only a long twilight. But the United States and our allies kept faith with captive peoples, and stayed true to the vision of a democratic Europe. And that perseverance gave all the world a lesson in the power of liberty. (Applause.)
We are now about three years into the war against terrorism. We have overcome great challenges, we face many today, and there are more ahead. This is no time for impatience and self-defeating pessimism. These times demand
the kind of courage and confidence that Americans have shown before. Our enemy can only succeed if we lose our will and faith in our own values. And ladies and gentlemen, our will is strong. We know our duty. By keeping our word, and holding firm to our values, this generation will show the world the power of liberty once again. (Applause.)
For four years, you have trained and studied and worked for this moment. And now it has come. You are the ones who will defeat the enemies of freedom. Your country is depending on your courage and your dedication to duty. The
eyes of the world are upon you. You leave this place at a historic time, and you enter this struggle ahead with the full confidence of your Commander-in- Chief. I thank each of you for accepting the hardships and high honor of
service in the United States military. And I congratulate every member of the Rickenbacker Class of 2004. (Applause.)
May God bless you. (Applause.)
END 12:04 P.M. MDT
Polygraph Testing Starts at Pentagon in Chalabi Inquiry
By DAVID JOHNSTON and JAMES RISEN
Published: June 3, 2004
WASHINGTON, June 2 Federal investigators have begun administering polygraph examinations to civilian employees at the Pentagon to determine who may have disclosed highly classified intelligence to Ahmad Chalabi, the Iraqi who authorities suspect turned the information over to Iran, government officials said Wednesday.
The polygraph examinations, which are being conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, are focused initially on a small number of Pentagon employees who had access to the information that was compromised. American intelligence officials have said that Mr. Chalabi informed Iran that the United States had broken the secret codes used by Iranian intelligence to transmit confidential messages to posts around the world.
Mr. Chalabi has denied the charge. On Wednesday, his lawyers made public a letter they said they had sent to Attorney General John Ashcroft and F.B.I. Director Robert S. Mueller III repeating Mr. Chalabi's denials and demanding that the Justice Department investigate the disclosure of the accusations against Mr. Chalabi.
The lawyers, John J. E. Markham II and Collette C. Goodman, said in the letter, "The charges made against Dr. Chalabi both the general and the specific ones are false."
They also said, "We ask that you undertake an immediate investigation to find and hold accountable those who are responsible for these false leaks."
Officials would not identify who has taken polygraph examinations or even who has been interviewed by F.B.I. counterespionage agents. It could not be determined whether anyone has declined to submit to a polygraph test.
No one has been charged with any wrongdoing or identified as a suspect, but officials familiar with the investigation say that they are working through a list of people and are likely to interview senior Pentagon officials.
The F.B.I. is looking at officials who both knew of the code-breaking operation and had dealings with Mr. Chalabi, either in Washington or Baghdad, the government officials said. Information about code-breaking work is considered among the most confidential material in the government and is handled under tight security and with very limited access.
But a wider circle of officials could have inferred from intelligence reports about Iran that the United States had access to the internal communications of Iran's spy service, intelligence officials said. That may make it difficult to identify the source of any leak.
Government officials say they started the investigation of Pentagon officials after learning that Mr. Chalabi had told the Baghdad station chief of Iran's intelligence service that the United States was reading their communications. Mr. Chalabi, American officials say, gave the information to the Iranians about six weeks ago, apparently because he wanted to ensure that his secret conversations with the Iranians were not revealed to the Americans.
But the Iranian official apparently did not immediately believe Mr. Chalabi, because he sent a cable back to Tehran detailing his conversation with Mr. Chalabi, American officials said. That cable was intercepted and read by the United States, the officials said.
Mr. Chalabi and his supporters argue that the accusations against him are part of a C.I.A.-inspired campaign to discredit him. His backers have been dismayed that the Bush administration recently divorced itself from Mr. Chalabi and his group, the Iraqi National Congress. They contend that the move was instigated by the C.I.A., which they say is now wielding intercepted Iranian communications as a weapon against Mr. Chalabi.
Richard N. Perle, the former chairman of the Defense Policy Board and an influential Chalabi supporter, said Wednesday that the notion that Mr. Chalabi would compromise the American code-breaking operation "doesn't pass the laugh test." Mr. Perle said it was more plausible that the Iranians, knowing already that the United States was reading its communications, planted the damning information about Mr. Chalabi to persuade Washington to distance itself from Mr. Chalabi.
"The whole thing hinges on the idea that the Baghdad station chief of the MOIS commits one of the most amazing trade craft errors I've ever heard of," Mr. Perle said, referring to Iran's Ministry of Intelligence and Security. He said it defied belief that a seasoned intelligence operative would disclose a conversation with Mr. Chalabi using the same communications channel that he had just been warned was compromised.
"You have to believe that the station chief blew a gift from the gods because of rank incompetence," Mr. Perle said. "I don't believe it, and I don't think any other serious intelligence professional would either."
Mr. Chalabi is not a focus of the inquiry, but senior law enforcement officials said he could be investigated in the future. They said a decision on that could be left to the new Iraqi government.
In the 1990's, the Iraqi National Congress was part of a C.I.A. covert action program designed to undermine Saddam Hussein's rule. But Mr. Chalabi had a falling out with the C.I.A., and agency officials concluded that he was untrustworthy. He subsequently forged an alliance with major conservative Republicans in Washington. When President Bush took office, Mr. Chalabi and the Iraqi National Congress were embraced by senior policy makers at the Pentagon, which became his main point of contact in the American government.
In a telephone interview on Wednesday, Mr. Markham, one of Mr. Chalabi's lawyers, said that Mr. Chalabi had been subjected to increasing "adverse comments" by American officials as his disagreements with the Bush administration over the future of Iraq had intensified. Nevertheless, Mr. Markham said, Mr. Chalabi "is very happy to come to the United States to appear before Congress or be interviewed by legitimate investigative agents in this matter."
The lawyers' letter said that "Dr. Chalabi would never endanger the national security of the U.S."
"Those responsible for such leaks, however, we submit are the same individuals within the U.S. government who have undermined the President's policies in Iraq and efforts to bring democracy and stability to that country, and are using Dr. Chalabi as a scapegoat for their own failures that have cost this country dearly in the past year in Iraq," the letter said.
Last month, American and Iraqi forces raided Mr. Chalabi's Baghdad compound and carted away computers, overturned furniture and ransacked his offices. The raid was said to be part of an investigation into charges that Mr. Chalabi's aides, including a leading lieutenant, had been involved in kidnapping, torture, embezzlement and corruption in Iraq. It is still unclear what the connection might be between that raid and the continuing counterintelligence investigation of the possible leaks of secrets to Iran.
Richard A. Oppel Jr. contributed reporting for this article.
Liberia's ousted regime 'smuggled arms by air'
Financial Times - By Mark Huband in London
Jun 3, 2004
A complex arms smuggling operation involving false aircraft identities allowed the former Liberian regime to break sanctions and import weapons on aircraft based in Iran and the Democratic Republic of Congo, a confidential United Nations report into sanctions-busting has revealed.
The report gives details of seven flights that carried illegal arms shipments to Liberia's Robertsfield airport between March and August 2003, as fighting intensified in the country and led to the downfall of the former president Charles Taylor.
It also reveals that a businessman with close ties to the ousted regime appears to have been allowed entry to France, despite being named on a United Nations list of former Taylor associates who are banned from travel and should be barred from entering or passing through any country.
The businessman, Gus Kouen-Hoven, was in Paris in April, the report said. His presence there will be an embarrassment to France, which last month accused the US and the UK of failing to take strong action against Victor Bout, a Ukrainian arms dealer who was a significant supplier to the Taylor regime.
The report details how pilots flying illegal arms shipments to Liberia fraudulently used the call sign of a Kenyan aircraft company - Astral - when requesting overflight permission from countries such as Sudan, the Czech Republic, and the United Arab Emirates. According to the UN document, two airlines operating out of the emirates of Fujairah and Dubai may have used Astral's call sign to hide their identity, unbeknown to Astral itself.
All the arms shipments were destined for Mr Taylor's regime. One flight carried 22 tonnes of arms, the report revealed. Six of the flights originated in Tehran, with three of these passing via Libya, two via Sudan and one via Benin.
On one occasion a shipment arrived in Liberia and the aircraft was immediately sent off to collect a second load that arrived a few hours later from the DRC, the report by a UN panel of experts says. Most of the shipments were of AK-47 assault rifles.
Liberia has been subject to an arms embargo since November 1992, though it was tightened in March 2001 in response to Mr Taylor's support for rebel forces in neighbouring Sierra Leone.
The UN report reveals that the arms embargo and the travel ban were flouted by the Taylor government, which ceded power to an interim administration last August when Mr Taylor went into exile in Nigeria.
A travel ban was imposed on members of Mr Taylor's government in 2001, and the UN is drawing up a list of Taylor associates and family members whose assets will be frozen, in an effort to prevent them plotting to destabilise the country.
Regional Implications of Shi'a Revival in Iraq
June 02, 2004
The Center for Strategic and International Studies and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Since regime change disenfranchised the Sunni minority leadership that had ruled Iraq since the country's independence in 1932 and empowered the Shi'a majority, the Shi'a-Sunni competition for power has emerged as the single greatest determinant of peace and stability in post-Saddam Iraq.
Iraq's sectarian pains are all the more complex because reverberations of Shi'a empowerment will inevitably extend beyond Iraq's borders, involving the broader region from Lebanon to Pakistan. The change in the sectarian balance of power is likely to have a far more immediate and powerful impact on politics in the greater Middle East than any potential example of a moderate and progressive government in Baghdad. The change in the sectarian balance of power will shape public perception of U.S. policies in Iraq as well as the long-standing balance of power between the Shi'a and Sunnis that sets the foundation of politics from Lebanon to Pakistan. U.S. interests in the greater Middle East are now closely tied to the risks and opportunities that will emanate from the Shi'a revival in Iraq.
The competition for power between the Shi'a and Sunnis is neither a new development nor one limited to Iraq. In fact, it has shaped alliances and determined how various actors have defined and pursued their interests in the region for the past three decades. Often overlooked in political analyses of greater Middle Eastern politics, this competition is key to grasping how current developments in Iraq will shape this region in years to come. Sectarianism during this time period has also been closely tied to the development of militant Islamist ideology and activism among Sunnis. Sunni identity is part and parcel of the ideology and politics of jihadi groups associated with Al Qaeda; the Taliban; militant Wahhabis, a puritanical sectarian movement that emerged in the eighteenth century in modern Saudi Arabia; and the various branches of the Muslim Brotherhood, a Sunni Islamist organization that appeared in Egypt in the 1920s and is associated with the rise of political Islam, especially in the Arab world. Anti-Shi'a violence is not just a strategic ploy used by Al Qaeda operatives, such as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, to create instability in Iraq and undermine Washington's plans for that country's future; it is a constituent part of the ideology of Sunni militancy.
The anti-Shi'a violence that plagues Iraq today was first born in South Asia and Afghanistan in the 1990s by militant groups with ties to the Taliban and Al Qaeda. In the past nine months, bombings in Baghdad, Iskandariya, Karbala, Najaf, and other Shi'a strongholds in Iraq have claimed many lives. In early March 2004, some 143 worshippers were killed at the site of the holiest Shi'a shrine in Baghdad and Karbala, during the celebration of Ashura, the holiest day on the Shi'a calendar. These attacks closely resemble acts in Mashad, Karachi, Quetta, and Mazar-i Sharif since the early 1990s. The current sectarian threat in Iraq is therefore more the product of a deeply rooted rivalry in the region than the direct result of recent developments in Iraq. In other words, the Shi'a revival and the decline in Sunni power in Iraq has not created Sunni militancy; it has invigorated and emboldened it. The ascendance of Sunni militancy is at the forefront of anti-Americanism in Iraq today and, as such, is likely to spread anti-Americanism in tandem with sectarian tensions throughout the greater Middle East region. On the day of the early March Ashura bombings, a Kuwaiti Wahhabi cleric condemned the Shi'a rite on his web site as "the biggest display of idolatry" and accused the Shi'a of forming an "evil axis linking Washington, Tel Aviv, and the Shi'a holy city of Najaf" to grab Persian Gulf oil and disenfranchise Sunnis.1
Beyond Iraq, U.S. interests and objectives in the greater Middle East are ineluctably tied to the ebbs and flows of Shi'a-Sunni struggles for power. Policymaking must reflect this reality, both by responding to the threat posed by the broader Sunni reaction to Shi'a revival in Iraq and by exploiting the opportunities that the growing Shi'a power in the region presents. Unless policymakers recognize the importance of the sectarian dimension of regional politics and understand how changes in Iraq impact the broader region, U.S. policy will miss the mark. Sectarian tensions can produce unpalatable futures for U.S. relations with the region, confounding goals of peace, stability, and progressive change for the countries and people of the greater Middle East.
The Shi'a number around 130 million people globally, some 10 percent of the world's 1.3 billion Muslims. The overwhelming majority of Shi'a (approximately 120 million) live in the area between Lebanon and Pakistan, where they constitute the majority population in Iran, Iraq, Bahrain, and Azerbaijan; the single-largest community in Lebanon; and sizeable minorities in various Gulf emirates, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Afghanistan (as well as in neighboring countries such as India and Tajikistan and in East Africa).2 In the arc stretching from Pakistan to Lebanon, the number of Shi'a matches that of Sunnis; in the Gulf region, the Shi'a clearly predominate.
Still, sheer numbers have not guaranteed the region's Shi'a a commensurate political voice. Outside of Iran, Sunnism has long been the face of the greater Middle East, particularly in defining the Arab political culture. From the marshes of southern Iraq to the ghettoes of Karachi, the Shi'a have been the underdogsoppressed and marginalized by Sunni ruling regimes and majority communities. The Iranian revolution of 1979 initially mobilized the Shi'a identity and emboldened the Shi'a masses to follow the Iranian lead, flexing their muscles and asserting their rights elsewhere in the region.3 The Iranian revolution not only showed the Shi'a a path to power but also provided powerful financial, moral, and organizational support in the Shi'a struggles for rights and representation.
Whereas throughout the 1960s and 1970s the Shi'a had championed secular nationalist causes and looked to Pan-Arabism or leftist ideologies to bridge the sectarian divide and include them in the political mainstream,4 in the 1980s many joined the ranks of distinctly Shi'a political movements. Groups such as Amal in Lebanon, al-Da'waa al-Islamiya (the Islamic Call) in Iraq, Hizb-i Wahdat (Party of Unity) in Afghanistan, and Tahrik-i Jafaria (Shi'a Movement) in Pakistan received financial and political support from Tehran to push for specifically Shi'a agendas. For example, with Tehran's blessing, Pakistani Shi'a rejected their government's much-publicized Islamic laws of 1979 as "Sunni" and were able to gain exemption from the laws, which led many more Pakistanis to declare themselves Shi'a.5 Iran's Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini actively supported Pakistani Shi'a demands, openly threatening Pakistan's Gen. Zia ul-Haq that, if his military regime "mistreated [the Shi'a, Khomeini] would deal with Zia as he had dealt with the Shah."6 In India, after continued disturbances between the Shi'a and Sunnis in Lucknow beginning in the late 1980s, the Shi'a community sided with the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in provincial and national elections in the 1990s, breaking with the larger Muslim community to protect its own specific interests.
Iran's sectarian posturing was not limited to mobilizing Shi'a minorities. Khomeini issued a ruling (fatwa) declaring the ruling Alawi sect in Syria, which is an offshoot of Shi'ism and viewed by the majority of Sunnis and the Shi'a as not Islamic, to be within the pale of Islam. The fatwa gave the regime of Alawi Hafiz al-Asad, whose base of power rested in Syria's minority Alawi community, legitimacy at a time when it was under pressure by the Muslim Brotherhood. More significantly, Tehran refused to support the Muslim Brotherhood when Asad's regime brutally suppressed the group's uprising in the city of Hama in 1982. The Tehran-Damascus axis was part of Iran's Shi'a expansionist agenda. It provided Iran with a counterbalance to the regional Sunni Arab alliance that supported Iraq in the Iran-Iraq War. Syria supported Iran in the war diplomatically as well as by applying military pressure on Baghdad, maintaining large numbers of troops along its border with Iraq. The alliance also enabled Iran to establish Hizballah in Lebanon, supporting the organization throughout the 1980s and 1990s to confront the U.S. presence in Lebanon and entrench Iranian influence among Lebanese Shi'a.
Despite these early gains, the Iranian revolution only briefly threatened Sunni dominance in the region. It did more to cast Shi'ism as a revolutionary anti-Western force at the center of the resurgent politics of Islam than as the vehicle for the empowerment of Shi'a communities. Revolutionary Iran failed to alter the balance of power between the Shi'a and Sunnis across the region and ultimately gave up trying to do so. By the end of the 1980s, with the exception of Hizballah in Lebanon, all other Iranian-backed Shi'a political drives for power in the Gulf, Afghanistan, and Pakistan had come to naught, while Iran's military drive to unseat Saddam Hussein's regime had ended in defeat. Sunni domination of the region had survived the challenge of the Iranian revolution.
The Sunni Backlash
The rise of Sunni consciousness and its sectarian posturing after the Iranian revolution was central to containing Khomeini's threat in the greater Middle East and beyond. Sunni identity served as the bulwark against the Islamist challenge that was then associated with Shi'a Iran and imbued ruling regimes with religious legitimacy. Since the 1980s, governments from Nigeria to Indonesia and Malaysia have relied on Sunni identity to draw a clear wedge between Sunni and Shi'a Islam, equating the former with "true" Islam and their governments as its defendersand branding the latter as obscurantist extremism. They dismissed Khomeini as Shi'a rather than an Islamic leader, and characterized their own Islamic opponents as Shi'a to reduce their appeal. In 1998 the government of Gen. Sani Abacha in Nigeria accused the Muslim Brotherhood leader, Shaykh Ibrahim al-Zak Zaki, of being a Shi'a before his trial for antigovernment activism. In Malaysia, the government has routinely arrested Islamic activists under the pretext that they are Shi'a, thus avoiding the appearance to its domestic audience of clamping down on Islamic activism while appearing to be protecting Sunnism from "nefarious anti-Sunni" activities.
In India and Pakistan, Sunni ulama (clerical leaders) took Khomeini head on, branding his vitriol against the House of Saud in the 1980s as fitna (illegitimate rebellion and sowing of disunity) against the Muslim community.7 Khomeini's challenge to the Saudi regime was depicted as a Shi'a rebellion against Sunni authority, evoking the legacy of Shi'a rebellions against the Umayyad and Abbasid caliphates in early Islamic history that had ensured Sunni domination of centers of religious and political power in the Muslim world. This mobilized much support for King Fahd ibn Abdulaziz's arrogation of the religiously and historically significant title of Protector of Holy Sites, Mecca and Medina (which are located in Saudi Arabia). As such, the Saudis became the defenders of Sunnism and the symbol of its resistance to Shi'a "usurpers." Saudi Arabia was motivated by the desire both to control its own Shi'a minority and to thwart Khomeini's challenge to the Islamic legitimacy of the kingdom. The Shi'a-Sunni struggles for the soul of Islam that had punctuated Islamic history since the advent of the faith were thus reenacted in the late twentieth century, with the Saudi monarchy assuming the role once played by Sunni caliphs ruling from Damascus and Baghdad.
In Pakistan, Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq, where emboldened Shi'a communities threatened Sunni regimes, the response was both swifter and more violent. Rulers ranging from Zia in Pakistan to Saddam in Iraq not only emphasized the Sunni identity of their countries and regimes as a bulwark against Khomeini's appeal but also sanctioned the use of sectarian violence to put local Shi'a communities back in their place. To this effect, Saddam in 1980 began purges of government agencies, the military, and the Ba'th party, which combined with executions, assassinations, and mass killings that in 1991 alone took the lives of some 30,000 subdued Iraqi Shi'a.8
In Pakistan, the cycle of bombings and assassinations that resulted from Sunni-Shi'a clashes throughout the 1980s and the 1990s scarred both communities.9 Some 900 incidents of street clashes and sectarian riots since 1989 have claimed more than 2,000 lives. Over five days in northwest Pakistan in 1996, sectarian combatants used mortars, rocket launchers, and antiaircraft missiles, killing about 200 people. Between January and May 1997,10 Sunni militant groups assassinated 75 Shi'a community leaders in an attempt to remove the Shi'a systematically from positions of authority.11 Until September 11, 2001, the Pakistani military actively supported Sunni militancy as a part of its regional policy in Afghanistan and Kashmir. Support for the militants continued after the attacks, only more circumspectly as Pakistan's military tried to protect its position in southern Afghanistan and Kashmir just as it sought to placate the international demand for ending jihadi activism. Azam Tariq, the leader of Sipah-i Sahabah Pakistan (Pakistan's Army of Companions of the Prophet), one of the most violent anti-Shi'a sectarian forces in the country with ties to the Taliban and Al Qaeda, was President Gen. Pervez Musharraf's most prominent Islamist ally until Tariq was assassinated in 2003.
Shi'a attempts to attain greater power in South Asia eventually failed. Sectarian forces tied to the Pakistani military and equipped with fatwas from Wahhabi ulama in Saudi Arabia and their allies in Afghanistan, India, and Pakistan engaged in systematic bombing of Shi'a mosques and assassination of Shi'a community leaders, government officials, and religious figures, especially in Pakistan throughout the 1990s. In the latest incident in March 2004, 43 Shi'a were killed in Quetta while commemorating Ashura on the same day as 143 Shi'a died in Baghdad and Karbala. The Taliban, whose ideas were shaped in seminaries that received funding from Saudi Arabia, reflected Wahhabi views; and trained Pakistani Sunni militants followed a similar policy in Afghanistan, massacring the Shi'a in Mazar-i Sharif in 1997 and in Bamiyan in 1998 and forcing thousands of others to migrate to Iran and Pakistan. After the Taliban captured Mazar-i Sharif in 1997, they declared that the Shi'a were not Muslims and not welcome. They gave the Shi'a the options of converting to Sunnism; emigrating to Iran; or, as was the fate of some 2,000, death.12
Saudi Arabia and Wahhabism
The Sunni assault on Shi'ism is directly supported by Saudi Arabia, Wahhabism, and the network of terror that Wahhabism has spawned, especially in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Wahhabism is a puritanical school of Sunnism that upholds a strident and narrow interpretation of Islam, viewing all those who do not subscribe to its views, and especially the Shi'a, as infidels. Since the 1970s, when Saudi Arabia benefited from the rise in the price of oil, Wahhabi religious leaders have exported their views of Islam by supporting various Islamic organizations and activities across the Muslim world. Their influence became particularly prominent in South Asia as Saudi funding supported the Afghan resistance to Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, which produced the infrastructure for the network of Sunni militants that has been active in Taliban, Al Qaeda, and Pakistani jihadi groups. In Afghanistan and Pakistan, the Deobandi school of Sunni Islam, whose madrasas have been the training ground for Al Qaeda, Taliban, and the rank and file of militant organizations in Pakistan and Kashmir, has become the main vehicle to disseminate anti-Shi'a Wahhabi views. Militantly anti-Shi'a sectarian militias in Pakistan such as the Sipah-i Sahabah and Lashkar-i Jhangvi (Jhangvi's Army) hail from Deobandi madrasas and maintain close ties with the Taliban and terrorist organizations such as Jaiesh-i Muhammad (Army of Muhammad) and Harakat ul-Mujahedin (Movement of Mujahedin) that are active in Kashmir and are responsible for acts of terror such as the murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. Sipah and Lashkar members trained in Al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan. Lashkar's founder, Riaz Basra, boasted of having been a close companion of Osama Bin Laden.13 Ahmad Ramzi Yusuf, the mastermind behind the first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993, is alleged to have carried out the bombing of one of Shi'ism's holist shrines in Mashad, Iran, in 1994.14
Sunni militants in South Asia are products of the same training grounds in Afghanistan as Al Qaeda's Arab foot soldiers. Organizational as well as ideological ties spawned from the Wahhabi core bind the sectarian forces with the Sunni Arab terrorists. Anti-Shi'a sectarianism is an important dimension of the Taliban's and Al Qaeda's political objective, one that their war on the West has largely overshadowed. Pakistani Sunni, Taliban, and Al Qaeda combatants fought together in military campaigns in Afghanistan, most notably in the capture of Mazar-i Sharif and Bamiyan in 1997, which involved the wide-scale massacre of the Shi'a. Pakistani Sipah-i Sahabah fighters did most of the killing, nearly precipitating a war with Iran when they captured the Iranian consulate and killed 11 Iranian diplomats.15 Sectarian Sunni fighters in Iraq will draw on the ideological and organizational resources of the broader network of Sunni militancy that developed over the past decade and has been ensconced in society and politics in the greater Middle East, impacting sectarian relations where those resources originate, in Afghanistan and South Asia.
Wahhabism emerged in the Arabian Peninsula in the eighteenth century and is today the dominant faith in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf littoral emirates. Its opprobrium for Shi'ism is as old as the school itself. Wahhabi armies invaded southern Iraq and desecrated the Shi'a holy shrine of Karbala in 1801. Throughout the 1980s and the 1990s, Wahhabi ulama issued fatwas declaring the Shi'a as rafidis (those who reject the truth of Islam), or infidels. Muslim Brotherhood activists in the Arab world and Deobandi ulama in India and Pakistan who are close to Wahhabi groups in Saudi Arabia have reiterated these opinions, justifying violence against the Shi'a. The Taliban too echoed the same opinions, characterizing their massacre of the Shi'a in Mazar-i Sharif in 1997 as the "revenge of Truth."16
Wahhabi opposition to Shi'ism converged with Saudi Arabia's regional policy of containing Iran starting in 1980. For the next two decades, Riyadh and its Sunni clients characterized Khomeini's challenge to the House of Saud as a Shi'a assault on Sunnism. In this sectarian confrontation, Sunni loyalties rested with Riyadh. Hence, entrenching anti-Shi'a sentiments and reinforcing Sunni identity in the region became imperative for the kingdom. Riyadh supported Saddam's regime all the way up to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990. Even after the liberation of Kuwait, Riyadh was instrumental in convincing Washington to back away from its promises of support to the 1991 Shi'a uprising against Saddam's regime in southern Iraq and in persuading Washington to defend Sunni domination in Baghdad. In Lebanon, Saudi Arabia helped restore the Sunni position to the center, through the government of Rafiq Hariri, and has been strongly defending the Sunni establishment in Beirut ever since. Elsewhere, Saudi Arabia pursued its strategy of containing Shi'ism by working closely with Wahhabi ulama to build a network of seminaries, mosques, educational institutions, preachers, activists, writers, journalists, and academics that would articulate and emphasize Sunni identity, push that identity throughout the greater Middle East in the direction of Wahhabism and militancy, draw a clear wedge between Sunni and Shi'a Islam, and eliminate Iran's ideological influence. As one observer remarked of the pattern of funding for militant Sunni madrasas in Pakistan in the 1980s, "If you look at where the most madrasas were constructed, you will realize that they form a wall blocking Iran off from Pakistan."17
Saudi Arabia's aim here is to stretch that Sunni wall from Pakistan north through Afghanistan and into Central Asia. Similarly, in Azerbaijan, Saudi funding of mosques and religious organizations and programs is strengthening Sunni consciousness in a society wherein sectarian identities were largely absent in the past and are now on the rise. The Saudi regime's support for Islamic activism throughout the 1980s and 1990s had distinctly Sunni sectarian overtones. The spread of radical Islam in Central Asia and the Caucasus in the 1990s did not come through Iran but through the Saudi policy of containing Iran; it was not so much an Islamic project as it was a Sunni one. As such, Sunni militancy across the region is not likely to remain impervious to change in the sectarian balance in Iraq.
Riyadh's investment in Sunni militancy did not raise much concern in the West in the 1980s and the 1990s, for during this period Iran and its brand of Shi'a militancy were viewed as the most dangerous face of Islam and the main threat to Western interests. The hostage crisis in Iran in 1979, the bombing of U.S. Marines and French military barracks in Lebanon in 1983, the taking of U.S. and European hostages in that country throughout the 1980s, and Iran's support for anti-Western causes and terrorism throughout the 1980s and much of the 1990s focused Western attention on Iran and Shi'a militancy. The Shi'a were then associated with anti-Americanism, revolution, terrorism, hostage taking, and suicide bombing. The Shi'a political fervor that emanated from Tehran and the kind of violence that it perpetrated was seen as an extension of the faith's millenarian beliefs and celebration of martyrdom.
By comparison, Sunni Islamic activists appeared less threatening. The West viewed them as socially and politically conservative but lacking in religious doctrines that matched the Shi'a penchant for militancy. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, the West was thus more tolerant of Sunni activism in general as well as the movement's spread into Afghanistan under the Talibanand across Central Asia.
After Khomeini's death in 1988, Shi'a militancy ceased to be the ideological force that animated Islamic activism. Instead, Sunni militancy assumed that role following the 1991 Gulf War that brought the United States into direct conflict with an Arab country and established a U.S. military presence in the region, particularly in Saudi Arabia in close proximity to Muslim holy sites Mecca and Medina. Determined to suppress the threat to Western interests apparently posed by the spread of Shi'ism following the Iranian revolution, the West was slow to recognize the change in the Islamic tide as well as the growing power of the Sunni militant network that, although initially established to contain Shi'a activism, had begun to turn its antipathy toward the West.
Although it took the attacks of September 11, 2001, and the prolific use of suicide bombing by Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Israel to alert the West to the threat posed by Sunni militancy, it has in fact been on the rise throughout the region for the past two decades, at least partially if not primarily as a response to the Shi'a activism that followed the Iranian revolution. At that time, Sunni militancy emerged to maintain the balance of power in favor of Sunnis in the region, but Saddam's fall has now radically changed that balance. The occupation of Iraq went hand in hand with a Shi'a cultural revival in that country. The celebration of Arbaeen (the commemoration of the 40th day after martyrdom of the Shi'a Imam Husayn [d. 680]) in Karbala in May 2003 by some two million Shi'a early on attested to the fact that Iraq was now a Shi'a country. The growing prominence of the Shi'a in Iraq, visible in the composition of the Iraqi Governing Council and later confirmed by the veto power that Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has attained over its proceedings, has only further underscored this sea change.
The Challenge of a Shi'a Iraq
Ever since the United States removed Saddam from power, the Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani has consistently pressed the United States to embrace an electoral process that will ensure the Shi'a control of Iraq for the first time since the Sunni Ottoman Empire seized Baghdad in 1533. Although Iraq's Shi'a do not speak with one voice, Shi'a politics, culture, and religious values, more than those of Iraq's Sunni and Kurdish populations, will shape Iraq's future.
Iraq will be the first Arab country to become openly Shi'a. Of all Arab countries, Iraq is one of the most importanta claimant to the mantle of Arab leadership and the seat of the Abbasid Empire (7501258), which established and embodied Sunni supremacy and brutally suppressed the Shi'a (many of whose main figures were killed by the Abbasids in and around Baghdad and are now buried in the shrines of Iraq). To pass from Sunni to Shi'a domination under the aegis of the United States has immense symbolic significance.
After the fall of the Abbasids, the land that constitutes modern Iraq changed hands among various invaders and Muslim imperial contenders and was for a while a province of the Persian Safavid Empire. In 1533, Ottoman armies defeated the Safavids to capture Baghdad and restore Sunni rule over the area. The Ottoman conquest was a markedly sectarian affair in that the Sunni Ottomans and Shi'a Safavids each claimed to represent the world of Islam.18 Religious persecution therefore followed military victory. The Ottoman victory ushered in a lengthy period of political domination by Sunnis that continued all the way through the Sharifian monarchy (19211958) and the Arab nationalist and Ba'thist periods that followed. Sunni domination in this era too reflected the longer history of suppression of Shi'ism, curtailing its cultural expression and denying its followers political power and, in turn, rejecting Shi'ism's religious legitimacy.
The domination of Shi'a politics in Iraq today by the ulama means that Shi'a revival in the country will inevitably change the country's culture and the place of religion in it, which will then profoundly impact relations between the Shi'a and Sunnis within Iraq as well as in the region as a whole.19 For instance, Shi'a law and theology are likely to define the extent to which Islam will play a role in Iraq's politics, potentially compelling Sunnis to live by Shi'a law. The implementation of Shi'a Islamic laws regarding family, taxes, inheritance, or commerce will be welcomed by the Shi'a and not by Sunnis, underscoring rather than erasing sectarian identities.
Based on the current distribution of power within Iraq's Governing Council as well as in the Shi'a community, there is speculation that an ayatollah may be the country's future president. Currently, the main contender is Ayatollah Abdulaziz al-Hakim, the head of one of the main Shi'a political organizations, the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI).20 The prospect of an ayatollah ruling Iraq raises the specter of a Shi'a Islamic Republic in Iraq similar to the one in Iran; more importantly, however, are the implications of such an outcome for sectarian conflict. For the Sunnis of Iraq and those in its neighboring Arab countries, SCIRI and its al-Badr Brigadea force of some 10,000 that was trained by Iran's Revolutionary Guards to fight the Saddam regimelook too much like Lebanese Shi'a militias, Amal and Hizballah, and prospects of their assumption of power evoke images of Lebanon's grueling civil war. The recent show of force by the more militant Army of the Mahdi militia of Muqtada al-Sadr has only reinforced these concerns. The car bomb that assassinated Iraqi Shi'a leader Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim and took the lives of another 125 Shi'a outside one of Shi'ism's holiest shrines in late August 2003, and the bombings in Karbala and Baghdad on March 2004, marked not only blows to Iraq's stability and security but also the opening salvos in a revived sectarian conflict with broader regional implications. The impact of these events will not be erased easily by the tactical alliance between the Shi'a and Sunnis in opposing U.S. occupation. The sectarian divide may be bridged to combat the United States, but it is likely to resurface after the occupation.
The Shi'a cultural revival in Iraq has broad implications not only for the future political development of Iraq but also for future sectarian developments in the greater Middle East, tipping the balance of power in favor of the Shi'a. The cultural and religious ties that bind Shi'a populations from Lebanon to Pakistan are once again of political significance; after two decades of suppression at the hands of Sunni regimes, the Shi'a are again demanding greater rights and their place in the political arena. In Saudi Arabia, Shi'a political activism, brutally suppressed since 1979, is on the rise; and organizations such as the Saudi Hizballah, the Tajammu' al-Ulama al-Hijaz (The Hijazi Ulama Group), and al-Haraka al-Islahiyah (the Reform Movement) are demanding political and religious rights for the Shi'a from the monarchy.21
Organizational and religious ties between Shi'a seminaries in Iran and in Iraq are only the most evident link in the network of ayatollahs and their representatives, organizations, and seminaries stretching from Lucknow, India, to Zanzibar, Tanzania, to Dearborn, Michigan. The opening of Iraq and gradual changes in Iran will strengthen the linkages centered in Qum and Najaf, as the winds of change in the region promised by the campaign in Iraq more tightly connect disparate Shi'a communities and their institutions. The triumphal trip of Iran's President Mohammad Khatami to Lebanon shortly after the fall of Baghdad was designed to underscore the importance of these ties, which also became evident with the presence of some 100,000 Iranian pilgrims in Karbala for the early March Ashura commemoration. Also a clear signal of the growing prominence of Shi'ism throughout the Middle East after regime change in Iraq was the convention of Saudi ulama that Crown Prince Abdullah called in the summer of 2003 to search for common ground between the Wahhabi and Shi'a religious leaders in the kingdom. In the coming years, less encumbered by the rigid boundaries of nationalisms, ideologies, and authoritarian regimes, Shi'ism is likely to have the opportunitymore than ever before in recent historyto once again become a regional force.
Implications for U.S. Regional Interests
In militant Sunni circles, the Shi'a revival in Iraq is proof of "sinister" U.S. intentions toward Islam after the events of September 11, 2001the grand conspiracy to weaken and subjugate the faith. To these circles, Washington has snatched Iraq from the hands of "true" Islam and delivered it to Shi'a rafidis. Sectarian feelings constitute an important dimension, and one to which the United States has not paid adequate attention, of the reaction in the Arab world and beyond to the U.S. occupation of Iraq, especially among the burgeoning militant Sunni forces that are growing in prominence as the expression of Sunni frustration with the decline in Sunni power.
Moreover, sectarianism's anti-Shi'a and anti-U.S. rhetoric is central to perceptions of U.S. policy in the Muslim world, especially in Arab countries where the impact of the U.S. presence in Iraq is more clearly felt. The Middle East historian, Michael Scott Doran, writes that Wahhabi ulama in Saudi Arabia continue to issue fatwas or give sermons denouncing Shi'a beliefs and practices as heresy but now tie the opprobrium for Shi'ism to anti-Americanism. The Shi'a are portrayed as a "fifth column for the enemies of true Islam. The danger of the [Shi'a] heretics to the region is not less than the danger of the Jews and Christians."22 The war in Iraq has been viewed as proof of "the strength of the bond between America and the [Shi'a] heretics."23 The language of Wahhabi ulama in Saudi Arabia echoes the anti-Shi'a vitriol of the Taliban in Afghanistan and militant Sunni forces in Pakistan, as do threats to annihilate the Shi'a minority in the Saudi kingdom.
The Shi'a revival in Iraq also jeopardizes U.S. interests in Saudi Arabian stability. As Riyadh can no longer claim to be sustaining Sunni dominance in the Middle East, it is witnessing a decline in its religious legitimacy within the kingdom as well as across the region. Instead, Al Qaeda and the Iraqi resistance are now making that claim. The Saudi monarchy cannot easily posture as defender of the Sunni prerogative to power in the region without directly supporting forces that resist the U.S. role in Iraq. The Shi'a revival in Iraq, as it alters the balance of power between Sunnis and the Shi'a and fuels demands for Shi'a rights at the same time as it fuels Sunni frustration and activism, more than any attainment of democracy and prosperity, may well lead to other regime changes in the region.
The United States walks a thin line in dealing with the sectarian dimension of its occupation of Iraq and must be mindful that this issue extends far beyond Iraqi politics. Today, Sunni militancy and Wahhabi activism, not Shi'a revolutionary fervor, pose the greatest danger to U.S. interests. In places such as Azerbaijan, where there are both Shi'a and Sunnis, it is Sunni Islamism, not Shi'a, that mobilizes youth toward political activism. Today, Sunni militancy is an ascendant, violent, ideological force that is not only anti-Shi'a but also virulently anti-American. From Bali to Baghdad, it is producing networks of activists that sustain the most dangerous forms of terrorism. Al Qaeda captures the ideological and political essence of Sunni militancy, but this movement extends far beyond Al Qaeda. Shi'a revolutionary activism, on the other hand, is essentially a spent force. Iran is currently a tired dictatorship teetering on the verge of collapse. The ideas emerging from modern-day Iran, similar to those that characterized the end of the Soviet era, do not support revolutionary fervor but rather demand liberal change.
Sunni militancy has since inception been anti-American and has produced the most violent expressions of this position in the form of Al Qaeda. Today, as evidenced by the rhetoric of the Wahhabi ulama and militants such as al-Zarqawi, Sunni militancy is a two-pronged effort: to extricate U.S. influence from the greater Middle East and to restore Sunni dominance to it. These aims are interrelated for, just as the United States facilitated the empowerment of the Shi'a by dismantling the Sunni dictatorship in Iraq, only defeating the United States in Iraq can reverse the gains made by the Shi'a in that country and the region more broadly. In his letter al-Zarqawi referred to the Shi'a as "the insurmountable obstacle, the lurking snake, the crafty and malicious scorpion, the spying enemy, and the penetrating venom." He added that, "We here [in Iraq] are entering a battle on two levels. One, evident and open, is with an attacking enemy and patent infidelity."24 In his most recent audiotape, released amidst U.S. operations in Faluja and against Army of the Mahdi, al-Zarqawi reiterated his vitriol against Shi'ism with threats against U.S. forces.25 The bombings in Karbala, Najaf, and other Shi'a holy sites make clear that Sunni militancy is designed both to combat the Shi'a revival and provoke a sectarian civil war in Iraq to confound U.S. plans for the country. It is for this reason that Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani parted with Muqtada al-Sadr's claim of Shi'a-Sunni unity in opposing the U.S. occupation to praise Army of the Mahdi's insurrection in southern Iraq as heroic and call the insurgents in Faluja terrorists.26
Policy Implications: Contending with Sectarianism
At face value, Shi'a populations in the Middle East and South Asia would appear to be the natural allies of the United States in the effort to contain Sunni militancy. Still, the United States cannot openly embrace the Shi'a revival without alienating many in the Arab world, especially those in the more anti-Shi'a Wahhabi states of the Arabian Peninsula and the Gulf such as Kuwait, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates, where the United States now has considerable strategic interests. Nor are the Shi'a ready to embrace the United States as their savior or ally. Powerful Shi'a forces in Iraq today, such as that of Muqtada al-Sadr, are aligning themselves against the United States. Washington's lack of relations with other important Shi'a forces in the region, such as the Islamic Republic in Iran and Hizballah in Lebanon, further complicates prospects for a U.S.-Shi'a nexus.
The sectarian struggle for power will not end in Iraq, and the United States cannot easily sidestep this ongoing conflict, given its long-standing alliance with Saudi Arabia and more recently its role in facilitating Shi'a empowerment in Iraq. Policymakers in Washington must take the sectarian struggle for power between the Shi'a and Sunnis seriously to avoid civil strife in Iraq and the rise of Sunni militancy as a new regional threat. Successful U.S. policy in Iraq and in the greater Middle East ultimately will have to be based on a strategy that incorporates the following elements:
Recognize that the Shi'a-Sunni balance of power is key to regional stability and U.S. regional interests. The sectarian struggle for power will have the single greatest influence on the future of peace and stability from South Asia to the Levantan area that ties Central Asia to the Caucasus to the Gulf, significantly impacting U.S. regional interests as well as U.S. efforts to promote democracy and economic growth. The changing balance of power between the Shi'a and Sunnis will be central to the political outcome not only in Iraq but also in Lebanon, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Azerbaijan, and Saudi Arabia. Developments in Iraq will likely only accentuate this trend in the coming years.
U.S. policy must go beyond the imperatives of the war on terrorism and the existing structure of alliances to reflect the Shi'a-Sunni dimension of regional politics. Accordingly, the United States must develop a broader policy framework that recognizes the interconnectedness of its relations with Iran and Lebanon to its interests in Iraq, the Gulf, and South Asia and harnesses the growing regional power of Shi'ism. Such a policy framework will bring coherence to U.S. policy toward Iraq and the greater Middle East and ensure regional stability at a time when the war in Iraq has disturbed the long-standing political balance in the region.
Avoid confrontation with Iraq's Shi'a and, most importantly, al-Sistani. Al-Sistani's demand for direct elections risks further marginalizing Sunnis and compromising the future of secular government in Iraq. Nevertheless, alienating the Shi'a, especially their most prominent and moderate voice, bears yet greater risk. As the most widely followed cleric, al-Sistani holds the key to stability in Shi'a communities in Iraq and elsewhere in the greater Middle East. To continue to have a moderating influence on the Shi'a, to keep al-Sadr and his anti-Americanism at bay, and to prevent the Shi'a from responding to provocations by Sunni militants, as happened in Quetta, Pakistan, after the Sunni militant attack on the Shi'a in early March 2004,27 al-Sistani has to retain his political legitimacy. This means that al-Sistani must deliver on Shi'a demands for greater political power and not be seen as doing the bidding of the United States.
Recognize that Shi'a-dominated countries of Iran and Iraq are better positioned to achieve economic growth and democracy than their Sunni neighbors. Iran and Iraq are more likely to achieve these objectives than neighboring Sunni countries (with the exception of Turkey). The dictatorship's hold in each has been broken, which has allowed for democratic possibilities in Iraq while civil society has moved past ideological politics in Iran. In both countries, Shi'ism no longer produces the kind of ideological politics that Sunnism continues to generate.
In Iraq, the Shi'a who have benefited from the fall of Saddam's regime and are likely to inherit the political order from the U.S. authority are more likely to react positively to democracy than the Sunnis whose politics are increasingly defined by their rejection of the U.S.-imposed order in Iraq. Moreover, the most thorough and lively debates about the place of Islam in the modern world including its relation to democracy and economic growth are taking place among Shi'a Muslims (with the exception of Turkey), not Sunnis. The Shi'a countries, whose politics are no longer dominated by authoritarian ideologies (Islamism in Iran and Arab nationalism in Iraq), are likely to emerge as the first to embrace democracy and integration into the world economy and also to play a key role in bringing about change in the Muslim world. For all the current fear of emerging Shi'a dominance in Iraq among U.S. policymakers, the reality that must be recognized is that this process will produce a convergence of interests between the United States and Shi'ism sooner than it will between the United States and Sunni countries. U.S. policymakers should look to expedite positive changes in the Shi'a countries as a part of the faith's greater regional prominence.
As Shi'ism grows in prominence in Iraq as well as across the greater Middle East, Sunni militancy spearheaded by Al Qaeda, Iraqi resistance, Hamas, and the rump of the Taliban is also on the rise. It has the potential to transform into an even greater force if the Wahhabi oppositional movement in Saudi Arabia succeeds in changing the political landscape of that country. Simultaneously at war with the United States and Shi'ism, Sunni militancy will embroil the region in sectarian violence as it seeks to reject both the U.S. order and changes that the growing prominence of Shi'ism will entail.
The challenge of Sunni militancy coupled with the promise for change brought about by the reemergence of Shi'a political influence in the greater Middle East necessitates new U.S. thinking and policy toward Islam and the challenge of Islamic activism. This new U.S. perspective must take stock of the changing balance of power between the Shi'a and Sunnis in the greater Middle East as well as the evolving relationship among the United States, Wahhabism, and Shi'ism. For the past two decades, U.S. policy has largely been shaped by a desire to contain the challenge of Islamist politics to ruling secular regimes and, more recently, the goal of promoting pluralism and democracy. The current imperative of containing Sunni militancy, however, more than any other perceived imperative, should guide the United States in striking the right balance between its policies in Iraq and its larger interests in the region.
1 . Economist, March 6, 2004, p. 41.
2. On Shi'ism, see Moojan Momen, An Introduction to Shi'i Islam (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1985); Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Hamid Dabashi, and Seyyed Vali Reza Nasr, eds., Expectation of the Millennium: Shi'ism in History (Albany, N.Y.: SUNY Press, 1989).
3. Juan R. I. Cole and Nikki R. Keddie, eds., Shi'ism and Social Protest (New Haven:
Yale University Press, 1986); Martin Kramer, ed., Shi'ism, Resistance, and Revolution (Boulder, Colo.: Westview, 1987).
4. Augustus Richard Norton, Amal and the Shi'a: Struggle for the Soul of Lebanon (Austin, Tex.: University of Texas Press, 1987).
5. S. V. R. Nasr, "Islam, the State, and the Rise of Sectarian Militancy in Pakistan," in
Pakistan: Nationalism without a Nation?, ed. Christophe Jaffrelot (London: Zed Books, 2001), pp. 8790.
6. Former Pakistani foreign minister Agha Shahi, interview with author, Lahore, 1989.
7. See Muhammad Manzur Nu'mani, Irani Inqilab: Imam Khumayni awr Shi'iyyat (Iranian Revolution: Imam Khomeini and Shi'ism) (Lahore: Imran Academy, nd).
8. Joyce N. Wiley, The Islamic Movement of Iraqi Shi'as (Boulder, Colo.: Lynne Rienner,1992).
9. S. V. R. Nasr, "The Rise of Sunni Militancy in Pakistan: The Changing Role of Islamism and the Ulama in Society and Politics," Modern Asian Studies 34, no. 1 (January 2000): 139180.
10. Ibid., pp. 141142.
11. Economist, May 10, 1997, p. 34.
12. Ahmed Rashid, Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia
(New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001), pp. 6264, 74; "Afghanistan: The Massacre
in Mazar-i Sharif," Human Rights Watch Report 10, no. 7 (November 1998).
13. Nasr, "Rise of Sunni Militancy in Pakistan," pp. 139180.
14. Mary Ann Weaver, "Children of Jihad," New Yorker, June 12, 1995, p. 46.
15. Rashid, Taliban, p. 74.
16. Some of these opinions have been available to the public in English at the Saudi Embassy in Washington, D.C.
17. Herald (Karachi), September 1992, p. 34.
18. On the history of Shi'ism in Iraq, see Yitzhak Nakash, The Shi'is of Iraq (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994).
19. On the current state of Shi'a politics in Iraq, see Yitzhak Nakash, "The Shi'ites and the Future of Iraq," Foreign Affairs 82, no. 4 (July/August 2003): 1726; Juan Cole,
"The United States and Shi'ite Religious Factions in Post-Ba'thist Iraq," Middle East Journal 57, no. 4 (Autumn 2003): 543566.
20. Jon Lee Anderson, "The Candidate," New Yorker, February 2, 2004, pp. 5163.
21. Joshua Teitelbaum, Holier Than Thou: Saudi Arabia's Islamic Opposition (Washington, D.C.: Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 2000).
22. Michael Scott Doran, "The Saudi Paradox," Foreign Affairs 83, no. 1 (January/February 2004): 46.
23. Ibid., p. 49.
24. Available at www.cpa-iraq.org/transcripts/20040212_full.html (accessed April 21, 2004).
25. "Excerpts: 'Al Qaeda Tape' Threatens Attacks," BBC News, April 6, 2004, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/3605593.stm (accessed April 21, 2004).
26. Amir Payvar, "Iran's Rafsanjani Praises Sadr's Shi'ite Uprising," Reuters, April 9, 2004, www.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?type=topNews&storyID=4794271 (accessed April 21, 2004).
27. Herald (Karachi), March 2004, pp. 2829.
The Washington Quarterly 27:3 pp. 724.
THE WASHINGTON QUARTERLY - SUMMER 2004 7
Vali Nasr is a professor of Middle Eastern and South Asian politics in the Department of National Security Affairs at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California.
The Sex Slave Trade in Iran
Donna M. Hughes
Professor & Carlson Endowed Chair
Womens Studies Program
University of Rhode Island
A measure of Islamic fundamentalists success in controlling society is the depth and totality with which they suppress the freedom and rights of women. In Iran for 25 years, the ruling mullahs have enforced humiliating and sadistic rules and punishments on women and girls, enslaving them in a gender apartheid system of segregation, forced veiling, second-class status, lashing, and stoning to death.
Joining a global trend, the fundamentalists have added another way to dehumanize women and girls: buying and selling them for prostitution. Exact numbers of victims are impossible to obtain, but according to an official source in Tehran, there has been a 635 percent increase in the number of teenage girls in prostitution. The magnitude of this statistic conveys how rapidly this form of abuse has grown. In Tehran, there are an estimated 84,000 women and girls in prostitution, many of them are on the streets, others are in the 250 brothels that reportedly operate in the city. The trade is also international: thousands of Iranian women and girls have been sold into sexual slavery abroad.
The head of Irans Interpol bureau believes that the sex slave trade is one of the most profitable activities in Iran today. This criminal trade is not conducted outside the knowledge and participation of the ruling fundamentalists. Government officials themselves are involved in buying, selling, and sexually abusing women and girls.
Many of the girls come from impoverished rural areas. Drug addiction is epidemic throughout Iran, and some addicted parents sell their children to support their habits. High unemployment 28 percent for youth 15-29 years of age and 43 percent for women 15-20 years of age - is a serious factor in driving restless youth to accept risky offers for work. Slave traders take advantage of any opportunity in which women and children are vulnerable. For example, following the recent earthquake in Bam, orphaned girls have been kidnapped and taken to a known slave market in Tehran where Iranian and foreign traders meet.
Popular destinations for victims of the slave trade are the Arab countries in the Persian Gulf. According to the head of the Tehran province judiciary, traffickers target girls between 13 and 17, although there are reports of some girls as young as 8 and 10, to send to Arab countries. One ring was discovered after an 18 year-old girl escaped from a basement where a group of girls were held before being sent to Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates. The number of Iranian women and girls who are deported from Persian Gulf countries indicates the magnitude of the trade. Upon their return to Iran, the Islamic fundamentalists blame the victims, and often physically punish and imprison them. The women are examined to determine if they have engaged in immoral activity. Based on the findings, officials can ban them from leaving the country again.
Police have uncovered a number of prostitution and slavery rings operating from Tehran that have sold girls to France, Britain, Turkey, as well. One network based in Turkey bought smuggled Iranian women and girls, gave them fake passports, and transported them to European and Persian Gulf countries. In one case, a 16-year-old girl was smuggled to Turkey, and then sold to a 58-year-old European national for $20,000.
In the northeastern Iranian province of Khorasan, local police report that girls are being sold to Pakistani men as sex-slaves. The Pakistani men marry the girls, ranging in age from 12 to 20, and then sell them to brothels called Kharabat in Pakistan. One network was caught contacting poor families around Mashad and offering to marry girls. The girls were then taken through Afghanistan to Pakistan where they were sold to brothels.
In the southeastern border province of Sistan Baluchestan, thousands of Iranian girls reportedly have been sold to Afghani men. Their final destinations are unknown.
One factor contributing to the increase in prostitution and the sex slave trade is the number of teen girls who are running away from home. The girls are rebelling against fundamentalist imposed restrictions on their freedom, domestic abuse, and parental drug addictions. Unfortunately, in their flight to freedom, the girls find more abuse and exploitation. Ninety percent of girls who run away from home will end up in prostitution. As a result of runaways, in Tehran alone there are an estimated 25,000 street children, most of them girls. Pimps prey upon street children, runaways, and vulnerable high school girls in city parks. In one case, a woman was discovered selling Iranian girls to men in Persian Gulf countries; for four years, she had hunted down runaway girls and sold them. She even sold her own daughter for US$11,000.
Given the totalitarian rule in Iran, most organized activities are known to the authorities. The exposure of sex slave networks in Iran has shown that many mullahs and officials are involved in the sexual exploitation and trade of women and girls. Women report that in order to have a judge approve a divorce they have to have sex with him. Women who are arrested for prostitution say they must have sex with the arresting officer. There are reports of police locating young women for sex for the wealthy and powerful mullahs.
In cities, shelters have been set-up to provide assistance for runaways. Officials who run these shelters are often corrupt; they run prostitution rings using the girls from the shelter. For example in Karaj, the former head of a Revolutionary Tribunal and seven other senior officials were arrested in connection with a prostitution ring that used 12 to 18 year old girls from a shelter called the Center of Islamic Orientation.
Other instances of corruption abound. There was a judge in Karaj who was involved in a network that identified young girls to be sold abroad. And in Qom, the center for religious training in Iran, when a prostitution ring was broken up, some of the people arrested were from government agencies, including the Department of Justice.
The ruling fundamentalists have differing opinions on their official position on the sex trade: deny and hide it or recognize and accommodate it. In 2002, a BBC journalist was deported for taking photographs of prostitutes. Officials told her: We are deporting you because you have taken pictures of prostitutes. This is not a true reflection of life in our Islamic Republic. We dont have prostitutes. Yet, earlier the same year, officials of the Social Department of the Interior Ministry suggested legalizing prostitution as a way to manage it and control the spread of HIV. They proposed setting-up brothels, called morality houses, and using the traditional religious custom of temporary marriage, in which a couple can marry for a short period of time, even an hour, to facilitate prostitution. Islamic fundamentalists ideology and practices are adaptable when it comes to controlling and using women.
Some may think a thriving sex trade in a theocracy with clerics acting as pimps is a contradiction in a country founded and ruled by Islamic fundamentalists. In fact, this is not a contradiction. First, exploitation and repression of women are closely associated. Both exist where women, individually or collectively, are denied freedom and rights. Second, the Islamic fundamentalists in Iran are not simply conservative Muslims. Islamic fundamentalism is a political movement with a political ideology that considers women inherently inferior in intellectual and moral capacity. Fundamentalists hate womens minds and bodies. Selling women and girls for prostitution is just the dehumanizing complement to forcing women and girls to cover their bodies and hair with the veil.
In a religious dictatorship like Iran, one cannot appeal to the rule of law for justice for women and girls. Women and girls have no guarantees of freedom and rights, and no expectation of respect or dignity from the Islamic fundamentalists. Only the end of the Iranian regime will free women and girls from all the forms of slavery they suffer.
The author wishes to acknowledge the Iranian human rights and pro-democracy activists who contributed information for this article. If any readers have information on prostitution and the sex slave trade in Iran, please contact me at email@example.com
Dr. Donna M. Hughes is a Professor and holds the Carlson Endowed Chair in Womens Studies at the University of Rhode Island
Read more at: http://www.uri.edu/artsci/wms/hughes/
FBI probes charge of Chalabi leak to Iran
By Bill Gertz
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
U.S. officials yesterday confirmed the FBI is investigating whether a government employee provided Iraqi political leader Ahmed Chalabi intelligence he is accused of giving Iran, but several said the prominent member of Iraq's now-dissolved Governing Council is the target of a disinformation campaign.
One official said Mr. Chalabi, who until recently had been on the payroll of the Defense Intelligence Agency, was set up by his enemies in Iraq, Iran or the Central Intelligence Agency, which views him with suspicion.
"Why are the Iranians setting up Chalabi? They want an Islamic republic and he represents democratic, secular Shi'ites. They saw him maneuvering for power and they wanted to discredit him," the official said.
A U.S. intelligence official said the unauthorized disclosure probe is focusing on officials in Baghdad.
Several news organizations, quoting anonymous U.S. officials, reported yesterday Mr. Chalabi told the Iranian intelligence chief in Baghdad that the United States had cracked the communication codes Iran uses and was intercepting its messages.
The Iranian supposedly then transmitted the information to Tehran by electronic communication that was intercepted and decoded by U.S. intelligence. The message said Mr. Chalabi learned of the code breaking from an intoxicated American official.
The intercepted message, which was closely held by the White House National Security Council, was viewed with suspicion at the Pentagon but welcomed at the CIA, which has viewed Mr. Chalabi as an unreliable informant.
No other information links Mr. Chalabi, whose home in Iraq was raided last month, to the Iranian compromise, one official said.
An intelligence source said U.S. intelligence has not been gaining valuable intelligence from Iranian communications for longer than the reported compromise several weeks ago.
The CIA declined to comment on the accusations against Mr. Chalabi.
In Najaf, Iraq, Mr. Chalabi dismissed reports that he compromised U.S. intelligence to Iran.
"This is false," Mr. Chalabi told the Associated Press. "Where would I get this from? I have no such information. How would I know anything about that? That's stupid from every aspect."
The New York Times first reported the FBI investigation into the suspected intelligence disclosure.
National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said yesterday that she could not comment on intelligence issues related to Mr. Chalabi.
Within the Bush administration, Mr. Chalabi created enemies at the State Department and CIA, an official said.
"The State Department is petrified he's going to become the prime minister in Iraq and the CIA is afraid that if he becomes a leader, he will never let them into the country," the official said.
Richard Perle, a Chalabi supporter who until recently was a member of a Pentagon policy advisory board, said he doubts that Mr. Chalabi would disclose such information or that Iran would risk revealing that it had learned of the compromise through a suspect communications exchange.
"I think it's absurd on its face to think that if the Iranians had learned from Ahmed Chalabi or anybody else that their most sensitive communications channels were compromised they would reveal that in those channels," Mr. Perle said.
"Instead, they would use those channels for disinformation and would not reveal their knowledge. That's [Intelligence] 101. It doesn't pass the laugh test."
Iran Nobel Laureate: Democracy Can't Be Imposed On Iraq
June 02, 2004
UNITED NATIONS -- Iranian Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi said Wednesday that democracy can't be imposed on the Middle East, and the newly chosen members of the interim Iraqi government will have to earn the confidence of their people.
"Democracy is not a present to offer a nation. Democracy cannot be imposed on people by dropping bombs on them," the 57-year-old human rights activist said. " The only way to go about it is through the United Nations."
Ebadi, who last year became the first Iranian and the first Muslim woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize, welcomed the inclusion of six women in Iraq's 33- member interim government but said they will be judged by their performance, not their gender.
"The presence of women in the government of Iraq is a good message for human rights," Ebadi said. "The mere existence of a woman in the cabinet does not mean anything positive. It's the performance that we have to watch out for."
The government, which was announced Tuesday by U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, takes power from the U.S.-led coalition on June 30 and will rule Iraq until new elections due by Jan. 31.
"We must see whether the performance of these people can win the confidence of the people of Iraq or not," Ebadi told reporters before giving a lecture on " Women, Democracy and Islam" at the U.N.
Ebadi, a human rights lawyer, has been highly critical of the U.S.-led war in Iraq and has called on the U.S. to withdraw its military from that country during her nationwide speaking tour.
"As an Iranian I was hoping that Saddam Hussein would be overthrown by the people of Iraq themselves and not by military power from outside," she said.
While distancing herself from Iranian politics, she reiterated calls for her own country to reform its laws to protect human rights.
She also rebuked the U.S. for not signing an international treaty on children's rights and for the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. forces at the Abu Ghraib prison west of Baghdad.
"The United States has always claimed to be willing to help and respect human rights," she said. "America is a civilized society and I ask myself ... how can it tolerate these actions and justify them?"
Iran Leader Scorns U.S. Democracy Claims
June 03, 2004
TEHRAN -- Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei Thursday scorned U.S. claims of promoting democracy in the Middle East, saying Iraq was a prime example of Washington's failed policies in the region.
"After 15 months, the Americans (still) do not let Iraqis say what they want or who they want," to govern the country, he said in a speech to mark the 15th anniversary of the death of Islamic Republic's founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
Iran's fiercely anti-U.S. Shi'ite Muslim rulers have been highly critical of U.S. actions in neighboring Iraq, while Washington has warned Tehran not to interfere in Iraq which has a 60 percent Shi'ite majority.
"U.S. President (George W. Bush) shamelessly claims he has a mission to promote democracy in the world... One can see its example in Iraqi prisons such as Abu Ghraib," said Khamenei, Iran's most powerful figure.
Bush has repeatedly held out the prospect of a democratic Iraq as a catalyst for political and economic reform across the region.
"Now freedom is stirring in the Middle East and no one should be against it," he said in a keynote speech to Air Force Academy graduates Wednesday.
But Khamenei questioned whether democracy could be brought to a country by means of "atomic bombs, coups and military might," he said in comments broadcast live on state television.
The U.S.-led coalition had promised to hand over power to the Iraqi interim government by the end of June, with elections for a transitional government in 2005.
"The Americans, whether they want it or not, whether they accept it or not, are defeated in Iraq," Khamenei said.
An Interview With Reza Pahlavi
June 03, 2004
Politique Internationale No. 103 2004
Conducted by the Editorial Board of the Politique Internationale
Heir to the Peacock Throne, Pahlavi is the eldest Son of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi. His latest publication is: Pour l'Iran, Flammarion, 2004.
P. I. - Things are moving in Iran. Some observe a serious crisis of the regime while others evoke a "pre-revolutionary" situation. How do you analyze what is going on in your country today?
R. P. - After 25 years, the Islamic Republic is confronting a crucial dilemma today: the issue of its legitimacy, both in the religious and in the political realm. This is not a new episode in the enormous farce consisting of a putative opposition between the so-called "reformers" and the "conservatives". Nor it is a simple parliamentary confrontation as democracies would experience. Believe me! What we are witnessing today is the total rejection of a system by a people tired of being kept away from the modern world, progress, and liberty. Iranians have understood that the only obstacle which separates them from the kind of future they dream of and aspire to is the clerical regime itself. Over the past years, economic welfare has deteriorated; average household revenue has degraded; corruption has steadily increased; in all domains, Iran has experienced a dramatic setback. And the regime's response to popular discontent has been but a ferocious repression. Therefore, it ought not be a surprise to see that in order to deceive the people, the regime invents a fake infighting at-the-top meant to divert attention. One should certainly not be abused by such a grotesque stratagem.
P. I. - More than 2000 candidates have nevertheless been prevented to take part in last February's elections. Isn't here the sign of an authentic political crisis?
R. P. - The heart of the matter is not that some candidates were prevented from running. Imagine that they were indeed allowed to participate. At the end of the day, once elected, would they have been in a position to decide anything worthwhile? I have been repeating this for years now: the problem at its heart is the legitimacy of the Islamic republic.
The theocracy in Iran is endowed with the only constitution in the world that practically denies people's sovereignty. The regime, which pretends to owe its legitimacy to divine sources, functions on the basis of the so-called "Velayat-e Faqih" (1). In effect, the principle means that a single person, the "Supreme Leader", settles what does or does not conform to the law. The Supreme Leader enjoys a veto power over any legislation. As a result, if you are an Iranian MP, you do not legislate; you merely content yourself with proposing laws to an unelected institution (2), aloof from all others and accountable to no one.
That's the true reason behind the current dead-end. In a democracy, citizens have the right to elect the candidate of their choice within an authentic electoral process. Nothing of the sort in Iran! Nonetheless, the rulers persist in repeating that the system is democratic! And, last but not least, isn't the very notion of "Islamic democracy" an oxymoron?
Let me point this out again, in reality, the so-called opposition between " reformers " and "conservatives" is nothing but a maneuver whose aim is to convince Mr. Solana or Mr. de Villepin that with the so-called reformers in power everything would be different, and, consequently, the system should be given time to endure since it is embedded with the "forces of progress"!
Remember the Soviet era. What was the rhetoric in those days? You would hear that the soviet top brass had within itself " hawks " and " doves ". You would hear that a leader such as Mr. Andropov was surely enough a "dove" for he liked listening jazz and appreciated whisky! As for the elections, although Kremlin could organize a series of them, did it impact in any way the totalitarian nature of the regime? Under Saddam Hussein too there were elections! The same observation is valid in Iran: as long as elections are neither free nor democratic, all they do is to comfort the regime. As yet another evidence of the hypocrisy of the system; consider this last point: why is it that Mohammad Khatami, unable to accomplish his mandate, not resign?
P. I. - But, there was a time when Iranians invested their hope on him
R. P. - I am not denying the importance of the vote in his favor in 1997. In giving their votes to the "reformers", Iranians believed that they could bring about meaningful change to their lives. They were persuaded that these rulers would succeed in modifying the constitution and institute that change. But, quite quickly, it proved to be impossible.
When the first student uprising broke out, in 1999, Mohammad Khatami, elected two years earlier, did not or could not do anything to prevent the ferocious repression of the demonstrators. There were even orders given to the elite Armed Forces to storm the campuses. Students were even thrown off the rooftops in their dormitories. So, what happened then? Did the "reformist" President protest? To the contrary! Mr. Khatami thanked the security forces for having guaranteed stability and protected the regime. And what is it that we witness today? Once more, the "people's candidate", kowtows to the radicals' injunction.
Finally, there is no reason to be surprised at all of this. Would you think that Khatami could have presented himself had he not shown a total allegiance to the system, to the Supreme Leader, to the Constitution? Would it be possible that a man like him, who has vowed to serve the Islamic Republic, be able to transform the system? The constituency is no longer duped! He or she has finally understood that having Khatami or anyone else for that matter as President would amount to no change at all.
Having said that, I do agree that there are two camps in Iran. But the confrontation in question is that of the regime with the people. The two camps you are seeking are right there! On one side, a theocracy, floundering about its survival; on the other, a nation, claiming its sovereignty. So, the question that occupies the mind of the Iranians is how to get rid of this vile regime?
P. I. - You keep saying that the Iranian "mullahcracy" is nearing its end. On what elements do you base this approach?
R. P. That the system is getting out of breath, is quite undeniable. The problems it is facing become more unbearable, day after day. Even the "Supreme Leader" no longer has the status he once enjoyed. The dead-end is total. The youth's movement and the student uprising (3) showed how badly mistaken the rulers are. For over two decades, they resorted to all sorts of propaganda in order to control the younger generations and keep them in ignorance. However, the result has been the exact opposite. The more it persists, the more it becomes obvious that so long as this regime, anti-democratic by nature, endures, there will be no reform. From this point on, the most important thing is not to wonder whether this regime will fall but rather when it will fall. I have no doubt about this: the Iranian people will resolutely turn their back to the ruling mullahs and determine their own future. I would further say that the international community will have to reckon with this explosive situation in its dealings with Tehran.
P. I. - We are precisely getting there. What role would you like to see the international community play?
R. P. - It is indispensable that western countries be aware of the unpopularity of the clerical rulers and draw their own conclusions. We have just entered into a new phase, and not just for Iranians, but for the rest of the world as well. It is obvious that the 1979 Islamist revolution wasn't without consequence on the whole region. Worst, as we see it today, it has influenced all of the Middle Eastern countries. It is in great part due to the decisions made in Tehran that today, the expansion of terrorism, the propagation of Islamic radicalism, and nuclear proliferation concern all the states of the region. Iran is a key actor in this part of the world: its role is essential in solving the Israel-Palestinian (4) problem, as it is in guaranteeing regional stability. Thank to its oil reserves, the country is also a decisive element in the grand energy arena. In short, a regime change would be in the best interest of all. But, to what extent would it be possible to accelerate this inescapable process.
P. I. - Are you saying that you would rather see foreign intervention in Iran?
R. P. - Certainly not! Let me make myself quite clear: I strongly believe that Iran does not need foreign intervention to rid itself of its rulers. The Iranian people are quite capable of handling their own destiny. The ideal scenario would require that change take place in a nonviolent manner, contrary to what happened in Afghanistan or in Iraq.
That said, the attitude of the international community remains crucial and the people of Iran are counting on their support. Instead of continuing their trade with the authorities of the Islamic Republic (5), the international community ought to turn its back to the clerical regime and clearly demonstrate that they no longer matter. It is time to espouse the cause of liberty in Iran. With regard to this, the timing is very important: the more we wait, the higher is the risk to witness the advent of undesirable scenarios.
P. I. - And what are these scenarios?
R. P. - Let us consider a scenario which seems quite plausible. Suppose that Iran succeeds in developing a nuclear weapon within the next two years (6). Would you think that the West will stand still and simply watch? Many countries, starting with Israel, would never accept such a risk. Strong measures would be adopted to retort to such a situation. Preemptive strikes could even take place.
The question is why should we go to such an extent? Why would we have to resort to such extreme measures when the people of Iran are ready to get over this regime? The point is however, that in order to get it done, they need to be supported. Stakes are high: in case of a regime change in Iran, I have no doubt that we would witness a U-turn with regard to terrorism and radical Islamism. Again, such an outcome is in the interest of all.
P. I. - Realistically, how could a regime change occur?
R. P. - First of all, my hope is that it happens without violence, through popular civil disobedience. Two aspects count more than anything else: maintaining the country's unity and referring to the will of the people via a referendum. It is indeed essential that the people of Iran be given the opportunity to say no to the Islamic Republic and opt for a democratic system. It is only then that they will determine the form of their future system. This could be a constitutional monarchy as well as a republic. You see, I could well be the heir to the throne, and such is the way many Iranians perceive me, but I do not insist on the form for what really matters to me is the content. My objective is simple: making sure that the Iranian people will regain their sovereignty. This will be the end of my political mission. Ultimately, it belongs to the people of Iran to formulate their preferences and to determine their destiny. For the time being, my only thought is nothing but to catalyze the political opposition to this regime.
P. I. - You talk about an opposition which is anything but united. By the way, isn't this the very cause of its failure?
R. P. - Absolutely! Up until now, the opposition to the Islamic republic has been unable to reach unity. The opposition in exile, the first one to get organized, has been unable to move forward, crippled as it is by inveterate and petty feuding. Consequently, it has been unable to bridge with the inside opposition. This turns into a crucial aspect since, the people inside the country have a limited margin of maneuver due to the absence of basic liberties. It is therefore up to the exiled opposition, which, benefiting from the freedoms they have, should come to the aid of its compatriots crushed under a backward regime and free them from the tyranny they suffer from.
In any event, one thing is sure: those who imagine that they can implement a finely premeditated scenario are dead wrong! No one has the right to substitute his or her views to those of the people. If indeed the opposition is looking for a way to become effective, it should reach an agreement over four intangible points: 1) foster democracy as a priority; 2) be concerned with Human Rights and political and religious freedoms; 3) be convinced of the necessity of the separation of Religion & the State; ; 4) strive to defend the independence and the territorial integrity of the country. All other points are secondary.
Let us now come back for a second to the disunion of the opposition and let us not overlook the fact that there has been a certain degree of improvement. The relations between the 30 or 40 groups which compose the large spectrum of sensibilities within this opposition, from republicans to monarchists, from the left to the right, from the radicals to the moderates, have steadily improved over the past 15 years. Just a bit more! Let us not miss the essential, that which we all aspire -- the emergence of a democratic Iran. As far as I am concerned, there is no doubt in my mind: sooner than many imagine, the current dictatorship will collapse. Tell me! Who would have bet on the collapse of the USSR a few months before the Berlin Wall came down?
P. I. - Do you personally have a well defined project for the future of your country?
R. P. - Of course, I would like to see the materialization of the four points I just mentioned. The new system which will see the day in Iran will have to be egalitarian and provide for free elections. The civil and political rights of the Iranian people will have to be upheld. No one and no group will be above the law. Even as the heir of the Pahlavi Dynasty, I claim no particular rights for myself other than those which the constitution and the popular will would eventually bestow upon me.
The judicial system will have to be revamped in order to satisfy internationally recognized standards. Its functioning will have to be transparent so there is no room left for corruption. It will have to be made accessible to all by decentralizing the tribunals and alleviating the procedures. In addition, all the ethnic groups coexisting in Iran will, according to the constitution, enjoy the power of administering their own affairs.
Finally, there is one thing which I cherish most: we must end the injustice that Iranian women have endured. In the future, they will have to enjoy the same rights as Iranian men. Gender should no longer be a factor for discrimination. In addition, the retreat of male domination in any society is an important indicator with which to measure the level of democratization in a society. You will see! One day, Iran will be a model country, both for being secular and for respecting Human Rights.
P. I. - Are you in touch with Iranians inside the country?
R. P. - My country does not live in isolation, thanks to internet and satellite dishes. My own internet site, which went online about 4 years ago, has had more than 60 million visitors, 70% of whom are from Iran. It gives me a precious window. In addition, some of my messages get across through the radio, given the many satellite dishes operating in Iran. Other communication channels, operated by our compatriots in California (7), as well as foreign radio stations, such as the BBC, VOA, and Voice of Israel, received in Iran, provide me with air time. There, many people listen to these broadcasts, and, quite often, I have the opportunity to talk to them directly. And, there is the telephone and fax. To put it shortly, the exiled opposition does communicate with the inside. Every day, my secretariat receives all sorts of communications, and myself, I have the opportunity to talk to many people who have remained inside via the phone or correspond with them via mail. Regarding this, I am pleased to see that the youth are particularly motivated. Quite often, they try to get in touch with us mainly via the internet.
P. I. - Can one count on communication alone?
R. P. - We live in the era of communication and interactivity. How do you want to maintain a country in isolation and ignorance nowadays? It is simply impossible! And Iran is in this regard, a vivid example. It is a different epoch. Years ago, making a simple phone call from there was quite a task. It is no longer the case. The country has also changed. Since the revolution, the population has doubled. Today, you have a population of more than 67 million which includes over 30 million below the age of 30. They no longer want to wait! They eagerly desire to have a job and to live a normal life. 15 years ago, when the Iron Curtain fell, those who were behind it obtained what they most aspired for: -- freedom. Do you really think that the Poles, the Slovaks, the Lithuanians, had the kind of communication means that we have today. Of course not! Nevertheless, nothing could prevent the Wall from falling. The same thing will happen in our homeland.
P. I. - Not being able to go there yourself, how can you evaluate the real impact of your ideas out there?
R. P. - According to our latest poll on Iran (8), many Iranians inside have indeed received my message and support my project. I notice that there is a real progress as compared to just 4 years ago when I had the impression of talking in a vacuum. Today, it has become clear to all that change must happen but it is imperative, as I have repeatedly said, that it take place without violence. Do you know why? The reason is that violence is precisely the strongest point of this regime and its senseless lackeys in the top layers. It is precisely through the conjunction of civil disobedience and the ensuing system's economic breakdown that we will reach our goal. Not by resorting to arms!
P. I. - Therefore, your assessment is that crippling & the exhaustion of the Iranian economy would, at the end, destabilize the regime?
R. P. - At the very basis of Iran's economic problems are anarchy and the absence of justice. A country devoid of a true judicial system, where the law has no power at all, is not an ideal place to invest in. First and foremost, capital goes to where there is security. Without investment however, there will be no economic dynamism, and, therefore, no development. How long could a country so demographically dynamic remain stagnant economically?
It won't be an easy task at all to overcome an accumulated backwardness. The regime has indeed brought enormous detriments & prejudice to the economy of the country. All along its existence, the Islamic Republic has gone through diverse economic experiences, each more catastrophic than the other. At the beginning of the Islamic revolution, they tried to set up a so-called "Islamist economy". At the end, the entire country was paralyzed. Thereafter, during the war with Iraq (9), it was the reign of the "war economy": in principle, everything was state-run and centralized but, in reality, a few privileged ones (intermediaries, profiteers, selected import monopolists) profited from the situation and amassed colossal riches. We know that some revolutionary organizations (10) used their political connections to cash in easy money speculating on currency exchanges granted to them at preferential rates. In fact, in Iran, the state-run economy coexists with a variety of more or less opaque foundations, as with various charities and so on, which abide by no law and are accountable to no one (11). These organizations import goods at preferential exchange rates and then resell them at their market value. Ready to hail "Islamic justice", how is it that the rulers of the Islamic republic close their eyes on an increasingly widening gap between the haves and the have-nots? In a more general sense, is it realistic to function with an economy in which the private sector accounts for no more than 30% of the GDP? I don't think so.
P. I. - You consider that the Iranian regime is not a legitimate interlocutor and that it will, in any event, collapse. But, as you just showed your concern, the international community continues to talk with Tehran. Do you think that western governments will end up adhering to your opinion and adopt a firmer attitude toward the Islamic republic?
R. P. - Despite everything, I remain confident. The world ought to realize that it is impossible for this regime to respond favorably to the aspirations of the Iranian people for openness. To them, it would amount to shooting themselves in the foot! But the West should be the more clear-sighted that the regime has an extraordinary ability to lure international public opinion. Witness to this is the now famous "constructive dialogue" (12) which some European countries, notably France, Britain and Germany continue to pursue with the Islamic republic.
No one ignores the fact that these countries have some economic interests in the region. This implies that these countries would accommodate the persistence of those regimes so long as the latter poses a promise to "advance toward democracy." The clerical regime in Iran, which perfectly understands the situation, has become an expert in this little game: it keeps promising reform, openness and democracy. It will promise anything you want to hear. Meanwhile, the Iranian people endure the dictatorship. But, one day or another, the people of Iran will remember the complacency which certain big powers showed toward their plight. That day, the people of Iran will demand accountability. The international community will have to respond to the question: "where were you when we needed you?" That's why I would like to close the discussion with this appeal: if Europeans want to dialogue with Iranians, they should do it with the people of Iran and not with their oppressors!
(1) " Velayat-e faqih" is the founding principle of the Islamic republic which holds for the primacy of the religious over the temporal & political.
(2) The Guardian Council of the Constitution. Placed under the authority of the Supreme Leader, the Council's task is to monitor the constitutionality of laws and their conformity to Islamic dogma. Composed of 12 members - 6 jurists nominated by the head of the judiciary and then approved by the Parliament and 6 clerics appointed by the supreme leader for six years - the Council examines the laws voted by the parliament or majlis. The 6 ayatollahs have the last word on matters pertaining to religion. As for the supreme leader himself, he is elected by the Assembly of Experts (70 members), itself elected through universal suffrage.
(3) July 1999 saw the student uprising, the first grand demonstration of public opinion against the regime. Periodically, the protest agitates university campuses. In June 2003, a street protest which lasted 10 days ended with the arrest of 4000 students. 2000 of them are still in jail today.
(4) The Islamic republic brings a political and moral support to the extremist Palestinian movements, Hamas and Islamic Jihad. It does not recognize the state of Israel and adopts a critical position towards the peace negotiations.
(5) In December 2003, Iran signs the additional protocol to the non-proliferation treaty (NPT) which entails reinforced and unexpected inspections by the experts of the IAEA of Iranian nuclear sites. According to the protocol, Iran also commits itself to suspend all uranium enrichment programs. The signature intervened after a series of negotiations between the FMs of France, Britain and Germany with Iranian authorities, seeking to enhance the cooperation of Iran with the atomic agency.
(6) " Iranians must understand that the international community will not stand still while they are pursuing their efforts to acquire nuclear weapons ", summoned Colin Powel on March 14th, at a time when Iranian authorities were threatening to review their cooperation with the IAEA. If Iranians "persist on this way", they should expect that the international community "prepares itself to act at the next scheduled meeting of the IAEA", declared Mister Powell. The UN agency could, in case it is not satisfied with Tehran's attitude, refer the case to the Security Council. Voted on March 13th, the agency's last resolution expressed "serious concerns" in the face of "omissions" and "unanswered questions" by Tehran with regard to the development of its nuclear program. However, the agency's experts, giving the Iranians the benefit of doubt, postponed to June their evaluation of Tehran's cooperation.
(7) Media financed or controlled by the Iranian Diaspora. Among them, private TV channels such as NITV, PARS, AZADI or the radio station KRSI.
(8) The poll was realized by the Mihan Foundation. Created by Reza Pahlavi in 1998, Mihan's objective is to establish a dialogue between the Iranian Diaspora and those inside the country.
(9) The Iran-Iraq war lasted from 1980 to 1988. It took a human toll of several hundred of thousands in both camps.
(10) Among revolutionary organizations, one can count the Corps of the Revolutionary Guardians, or "Pasdarans", which enjoys numerous privileges including preferential exchange rates.
(11) Created with a social aim, the foundations have become veritable financial powers. Outside governmental control, they benefit from tax exemptions and large subsidies (bank financing, allocations of preferential exchange rates ) While they are often dominated by the conservatives, the most important of them, the Foundation of the Disinherited (10% of the industrial output), seems to be controlled by the reformers.
(12) Europeans, in particular France, Germany and Britain, pursue since 1995 a policy of "constructive dialogue" which evolved into a "global dialogue" in 1998. The latter encompasses bilateral cooperation (drugs, refugees, energy, trade, investment), regional questions (Near East, Iraq), and general issues (terrorism, human rights, proliferation). This "constructive dialogue" has been revived in fall of 2003 when the European "troika" (the heads of French, German and British diplomacies) engaged a dialogue with Tehran to end the nuclear proliferation crisis.
Farah discusses Iran's war against U.S.
Al-Sadr-expert guest explains how Tehran's tentacles influence Iraq
Posted: June 3, 2004
1:00 a.m. Eastern
© 2004 WorldNetDaily.com
Middle East expert Dr. Constantine Menges will be Joseph Farah's guest today on his nationally syndicated radio talk show to discuss what he calls Iran's secret war against the U.S.
Menges, an expert on Iran and radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, says Tehran is the driving force behind the Muslim leader's movement, providing funding and recruiting of tens of thousands of political operatives and armed militants in Iraq.
"Iran is working covertly with al-Sadr to use political means, threats and murder to eliminate enemies, intimidate local leaders and take over control of the Shiite leadership in Iraq," contends Menges.
Menges notes Iran dominates radio and television broadcasting in Iraq, controlling 41 of 63 AM/FM/TV broadcasts heard in the country.
The analyst is currently director of the Program on Transitions to Democracy at the Hudson Institute and has served as special assistant to the president for national security affairs as well as national intelligence officer with the CIA.
Sporadic clashes erupt in center Tehran on Khomeini's Death Anniversary
SMCCDI (Information Service)
Jun 3, 2004
Sporadic clashes have been reported as taking place, at this time (23:30 IR Local time), in the Amir-Abad and Keshavarz areas located in the center of Tehran and near the university.
Islamic regime forces and plainclothes vigilantes backed by fresh foreign mercenaries sent from Lebanon and Sudan are attacking the crowd which seems to have gathered on the night of Khomeini's Death anniversary in order to celebrate. Roadblocks are reported to be place in order to close the perimeters
Already most Iranians were seen, today, publicly congratulating each other at the occasion of the death of the founder of the Islamic regime. Many were joking and laughing while wishing Khomeini to "bun in hell is it exists! Of course, the regime, as planned like each year, had organized, since yesterday evening, official mourning ceremonies serving tea, pastry and food to professional demonstrators and foreign Islamists.
It's to note that Ayatollah Khomeini died on 15 Khordad 1368 (June 4, 1989), leaving a legacy of destruction and sorrow behind him. Many Iranians know him as the messenger of Satan rather than the God he claimed to represent.
Khomeini promised heaven and justice but transformed Iran to a minefield of slaughter and butchery from each of its four corners. Mothers and fathers having lost a precious child or wives losing a beloved husband, cried out to the heavens as their loved ones were slain at the walls of executions. He promised the closing of jails but transformed Iran into a colossal prison in which no thought other than those of the Ayatollah are allowed. He praised the status of women and pledged leading roles for them in an Islamic society but transformed them into black shrouded subjects without any meaningful rights. He promised a better economy but transformed one of the most prosperous economies of the late 70's into a total bankruptcy.
Many other promises that the Ayatollah made turned out to be false promises done in order to lure his naive supporters to commit the biggest mass suicide of the century.
Maybe the best commentary about him ever made by western media was written by the London Times, January 1, 2000, which stated:
" Khomeini's rule was, in all significant respects, a disaster.'
'For Iran it was comparable to the Mongolian
invasion of the 13th century.
'For neighboring Islamic nations his effect was to
frighten moderate leadership and to paralyze reform.'
'For the rest of the world he bears, in addition, a
disastrous responsibility for inspiring and
sanctioning state terrorism.'
'All three legacies will be hard to erase. "
Ayatollah Khomeini will have his place in the dark records of the Iranian contemporary history as a man full of hate and ignorance who chose the gradual destruction of a country for fulfilling his thirst of revenge and egocentrism. The Islamic regime rulers might continue to praise his legacy of doom, devastation and desolation, but the people of Iran have issued their historical verdict about him by creating a milieu in which the regime is forced to watch over his tomb just to prevent its destruction and defilement. And as Akbar Ganji, one of its first followers, said once in an interview with a German newspaper, " Khomeini will finish in a museum."
A museum of horror or the dustbin of history: such a choice will be the final sentence of the Iranian people in the near future.